When you decided to marry your second husband did you:
1) Think about the impact this was going to have on your children?
2) Get clear about how your new marriage was going to fulfill your hopes and dreams for them?
3) Talk to them about that?
4) Talk to him about it? (I’ll soon be doing a post on how to have a difficult conversation)
If you didn’t, it’s time that you did.
Your children need leadership to know what to expect and what the new ground rules are. If you are not providing that, they will feel insecure and they will cling to you in fear of losing what they had with you.
Your children need time to develop their own relationship with your new mate. They need to know that he has their best interest at heart and is there to be a friend to them, not a father. If he didn’t make time for them before the marriage, it needs to happen now.
Above all else your children need to feel secure. Love is not enough. All the ‘extras’ that your parents provide are nice, but what if those ‘extras’ are in the way of giving them what they really need?
To feel safe, a child needs to know (and they know) that their world is secure, which includes trusting that your relationship is solid. Children feel more secure when their parent/step-parent’s are in love and happy with each other, than when there is a rift between them, even if there is no real immediate danger of the relationship breaking up.
If you want them to feel safe, you must put your marriage first!
If you are focusing all of your attention on your children, you are undermining your marriage. Your husband isn’t going to play second fiddle to your children for too long. He will either tune you and your kids out, becoming more distant and angry, and/or he will get his needs met elsewhere.
This doesn’t mean that you ignore your children, but it does mean that your children don’t get all of your attention. For example, when he gets home from work, you ask him to spend 10 minutes with the kids to say hello and get a hug, then the two of you spend 15 or 20 minutes together alone while the kids finish their homework or set the table. This is time for the two of you to say hello, check in with each other, get a good kiss in before dinner and reconnect with your feelings of love for each other.
Keeping your marriage strong is your primary responsibility for your children’s long-term well-being.
If you want them to grow up to have healthy relationships, they need to see you in one. Children don’t do what you say, they do what you do. If you demonstrate to them that your relationship isn’t that important, then you can expect them to do the same.
Your relationship with your children may need to change.
This is especially true if you have been being their friend, instead of their Mom. Your children need for you to be someone they can trust to look out for their best interest. Being their friend does not give them that security. Instead they will feel that you just want them to like you, which will damage that trust.
Look for my next post for Part 3 What’s in Your Own Emotional Bank Account? of my 3 part answer to Betty.
I look forward to hearing your comments on this topic, especially if you have a need to change your relationship with your children. Or you can email me any of your relationship questions at firstname.lastname@example.org