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How Remarriage Affects Kids

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Illustration of a sad woman sitting on the porch of a home with a happy family inside, suggesting exclusion
Jojo Ensslin

Because Mike and I were widowed, not divorced, we thought we'd found the easy button for blending families: no joint-custody or child-support hassles.

Because Mike and I were widowed, not divorced, we thought we’d found the easy button for blending families: no joint-custody or child-support hassles. And two of Mike’s kids were grown. His youngest, Alex, was a senior in high school, so he was the only one who’d be living with us, along with my two children.

We were a little surprised, and a lot disappointed, when Alex became a consistent no-show at the house, even for dinner. He’d go from school to his part-time job and often end the day at his grandparents’.

Time spent

It wasn’t until his grandfather told us that it was hard for Alex to watch his dad spend time with me and my children, Tanner and Katy, that we realized why Alex had been distant. In Mike’s effort to build a strong relationship with his stepchildren, he had sent an unintentional message to his son.

Alex had told his grandfather that his dad spent more time with Tanner than he did with him. So Mike asked Alex about it. “It’s true,” Alex said. “You and Tanner do stuff together. It seems like that’s all you talk about.”

“I’m sorry you feel left out,” Mike told Alex. “I have been spending a lot of time with Tanner and Katy, but that’s because they’re here. They come in after school and hang out; we’re all home for dinner. I’d love to spend more time with you, but you’re not around.”

Then Alex opened up. “Dad, it’s hard for me to see you with Cyndi. It’s not that I don’t like her. I do. But when I see you together, I can’t help but think of Mom. I stay away because it’s so painful.”

Mike and I had been clueless. We’d assumed Alex’s behavior had changed because he was a senior — spreading his wings and just needing some space. We didn’t realize the depth of Alex’s pain or how our marriage and the shift in family dynamics had affected him.

Honest communication

The conversation between Alex and his dad opened the door for honest communication. From then on, Mike and I were more sensitive to Alex’s feelings. I made a bigger effort to let him know he was welcome and wanted in our home. Eventually he came around — joining us for dinner, bringing his friends over and even going on a family vacation with us.

After that first year of adjustment, Alex left for college. Because he was nearby, he’d bring friends home on weekends. I believe our hospitality toward them further helped Alex recognize our desire to strengthen lasting family relationships.

Mike and his college-age daughter, Lizzie, had a heart-to-heart conversation that led them to attend counseling together. Like Alex, Lizzie had difficulty accepting her father’s relationship with someone other than her mom. She also missed spending time with her dad, so Mike made a commitment to have father-daughter date nights with her.

Today, some 10 years later, our family relationships are stronger than ever. Blending a family may not be as easy as pushing a button, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

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Your Teen Needs You Most of All

No parent of teens is perfect and even the best can learn how to better connect with their son or daughter. Get practical action steps to better connect with your teenager in 8 Essential Tips for Parenting Your Teen in this FREE video series!

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.
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Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.

Reconnected: The Digital Experience

Is the love there, but not the spark? Reawaken fun in your marriage and move from roommates to soulmates again with the help of this 7-part online video experience. Learn how to connect emotionally and spiritually as husband and wife using techniques such as dreaming together and establishing deep, heartfelt communication. The Digital Experience includes 7 teaching videos, an online study guide and access to additional tools and resources to help spouses reconnect.

Next Steps: Marriage Assessment

We want your marriage to be thriving and healthy. Take the free Marriage Assessment from Focus on the Family to learn how to strengthen your bond with your spouse and get the tools to help you need to grow closer together. 

Next Steps: Fruit of the Spirit Devotionals for Couples

The Fruit of the Spirit Devotional is a free series of nine short videos to get you into God’s Word and inspire you to seek the Holy Spirit’s help in loving your spouse.

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