Questions in the Parenting Forum are being answered by doctors from MindWorks. Topics include: Behavioral Issues - Discipline, Emotional Development, Family Issues, Recreation, School Issues, Social Development
Help needed in helping my child adjust with new stepparents
I am concerned about how well my son is dealing with new step parents. My 5 year old son who lives with myself just moved in with my boyfriend about 4 months ago. He has been fine with our new living arrangements. He gets along with my boyfriend very well. He has not had any issues. However, my ex-husband, his father has recently decided to inform him that he is getting married in October. My son only sees his father twice a month and is worried about the marriage. He has complained to his father and myself that his dad don't spend a lot of time with him when he goes over there. I was under the impression that his father had talked with him and changed his behavior. However, the other day my son starting crying that he thinks his dad is going to forget about him once he is married. I sat down with my son and got him to talk about what is making him think that. He responded by telling me that his dad only talks about the wedding and his fiancée. My son believes his father is not interested in him. I spoke with his dad he said "make him deal with it." This past month he hasn't seen his father any, nor has his dad been in any contact with him. I am so unsure on how I am suppose to help my son understand his father's behavior since his fiancée has came into the picture. I am really concerned about this. Is there any help or advice available with this problem? thank you.
5 year olds love things to be the same, they do not generally welcome change. I don't doubt that the idea of having a stepmother (a major change, no matter how great she may be) is very upsetting. Though he gets along great with your boyfriend, he has also had a major adjustment to make recently in your house as well. It is up to all the adults to recognize how upsetting this can be for a child and to place the child's adjustment at a premium.
It is so hard on children to see one parent so infrequently as twice a month. Your son's relationship with his father is severely tested by this custody arrangement, so its no wonder that he feels protective of the little time remaining with his father. Not seeing a parent for a month at this age is an eternity, and I am sure your son wonders if he will ever see his father again. Giving your ex the benefit of the doubt, he may have been talking a lot about the wedding and the new wife to help your son feel like he is part of things, or to try to get him ready for the change. Fathers who do not get to see their children frequently are at higher risk for having the quality of the relationship suffer over time, particularly if they feel replaced by a stepfather-- I wonder what has happened here to change things.
So in terms of recommendations, I recommend you get the book Difficult Questions Kids Ask about Divorce as soon as you can. This very practical guide will help you talk your son through his fears. Expect that he will need lots of extra reassurance and support. Since your son can not do so, I recommend you get in touch with your ex and try to get him back in contact with your son as soon as you can. Don't blame and make accusations, just tell him what you have observed and ask for his help in making your son feel better. Finally, if your son continues to be very distressed, seek a psychotherapist for him with some expertise in these issues.
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