How I Talked With My Tween About Remarriage
For a parent, getting remarried is about moving ahead in life. But, what about the child? Does he agree with his parent's decision? Read on to know how you should talk to your tween about remarriage.
By Shashwathi Sandeep
She looked at all the prospective groom pictures annoyingly and said, “No way I’m gonna get married now.”
He smiled back, saying, “Who said now? Take your own time Mom.” — Anonymous
Ayush (name changed) was nine years old when his mother Hima decided to remarry. The person Hima planned to marry used to visit them often, and both he and Ayush shared a great bond. So, assuming that Ayush was comfortable with her choice of life partner, Hima decided to take the big step. After Hima's remarriage, Ayush moved in with her to his new dad’s home.
However, within the span of a few months, things changed. Ayush no longer wanted to stay with his mother and stepdad. He wanted to shift to his grandparent’s place. Ayush refused to talk about what was bothering him. His parents too decided not to press the matter, fearing they would hurt him in the process. So, things remained unresolved between the parents and their child.
Such breakdown of communication between a parent and the child when a father or mother decides to remarry, is not uncommon. After divorce or the death of a partner, it requires immense courage for a parent to overcome their own fears or doubts when it comes to remarriage. And when there is also a tween involved, things can get even more complicated. So, how can you as a parent talk to your tween about the subject of remarriage in the right manner?
Approaching the subject
Sulakshana had been divorced for the past ten years, but found love again in the form of her friend, who had always been there for her. Last year, she decided to take the plunge.
According to her, “It is easier when your child is old enough to talk about such sensitive topics; they understand and empathise with you better. My son was used to my present husband being around for me as a friend, these past ten years. At some level, I think he was also aware of my relationship with him (my friend-turned-husband). So, when I broached the topic of remarriage with my son, he was initially hesitant. He asked a lot of questions like 'Will our relationship change?' and 'Will we have to move out of our present house?'. But, once I cleared his doubts and told him that we are going to be one big family, he was okay with the idea. My parents too helped make him understand how happy I am with his ‘new’ dad and how much he is already involved in our lives. This made the task at hand easier,” explains Sulakshana. She also attributes the ease of transition to the role played by her new in-laws and the society in accepting her move without being judgmental.
What tweens experience when parents remarry
“It actually differs from case to case and depends on various factors, such as the age of your child, your relationship with your child, the relationship between your child and your ex, your child's relationship with your new partner, how your divorce affected him and his personality. The fear of abandonment is high in children of divorce, as one parent has left. Once your relationship grows with your new partner, it is a good idea to talk about remarriage with your child gradually, as and when you know more, rather than break the news as a surprise,” explains Bhakti Thakkar Bauva, a Mumbai-based Consultant Clinical Psychologist.
Talking about remarriage with your tween
While you may look at remarriage as a step in the right direction, your child may have a very different perspective. Although this may complicate matters, it doesn't mean that you should drop your plan. Instead, here are a few things you can do to address your child's concerns and help him accept your decision:
Work on your relationship with your child: The relationship you share with your child should always be your priority. This will take center stage when you plan to broach the topic of your remarriage. Ask your child what she is feeling and encourage her to voice her concerns as well. This will ensure that there is open communication and hence, talking about the topic will become easier.
Prepare your child: You should begin discussing the topic of remarriage with your child much before you actually take the plunge. In fact, you should start talking with your child right from the time your new relationship begins to get serious. It's advisable that you share with your child the fact that being in a relationship with your new partner makes you feel happy.
Never force your child to consider your new partner as a parent: Children of divorce are likely to be more skeptical about the idea of remarriage. Your child may be so attuned to the idea of having only one parent that she might view the new parent as an interference. So, it becomes important to make your child understand that your new partner is not replacing her other parent (mom or dad). This is vital, as most children of divorce usually hope that, at some point, their parents will get back together. So, it may seem to child that your remarriage will shut the door on this possibility for ever. Hence, she may begin to feel more loyal towards her other parent. Reassure your child that her wishes will be respected, no matter what.
Gradually introduce the person you plan to remarry: The first time, introduce the person you wish to marry, in a group setting. Gradually change to a one-on-one setting. Let your child and your new partner spend time together, say, doing activities that are fun for both. This would also make them work on their relationship and your child will become more accepting of the fact that the new person is here to stay.
Reassure your child that your relationship with him won't change: Parents tend to make the mistake of sharing how remarriage is important to them, but fail to address the child's feelings and fears. However, your tween wants to know how your remarriage will affect his life. Thus, it is crucial that you spend time with your child assuring him that your relationship isn't going to change and that you will always be there for him. Also, share with your tween how your remarriage will change his life.
The decision to remarry is a huge step, both for you and your tween. The first time around, it was your own individual decision. But this time around, your child's concerns should also be taken into consideration. So, make him feel important and involve him in every stage of the process.
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