By Molly Murphy
Cordell & Cordell, P.C., Jefferson City, Mo., office
When two people get married, they expect to be together forever. As adults we know that people’s feelings can change over time. This can happen even if both adults are dedicated to the children they share. Divorce is never an easy decision. Many times your children will be happier if Mom and Dad live apart.
Divorce is hard for everyone involved. Eventually though the pain and hurt ease and each person begins to heal, and accept their new life. At this stage, Mom or Dad may find someone else to love. When that happens, a new family is born. A new husband or wife means a stepparent for a child. It is normal for a child to be scared and sad as this new family comes together.
It can be really difficult on a child to have to share their time with their parent and a new person. This stepparent is now in their home, in their life, and always with their parent. A child has grown used to this new life with either Mom or Dad and not having to share them with someone else. A child can also be torn. Is this new stepparent going to make new rules? Is this someone they have to listen to even if they are not the child’s mom or dad?
Or the worst: What if your child hates your new spouse? Or, the new stepparent brings their own kids to the child’s house, and all the kids do is fight? The best advice I can offer you as parents is to speak to your children. Talk to them about what is going on. Kids don’t like change, they like routine. I would also tell parents to spend a little extra alone with the child. Sometimes just your presence is enough. Children of any age may think that liking, or even loving, their new stepparent, is a betrayal of their other parent.
Another idea is to call a family meeting. Have everyone voice their concerns, and their priorities. If these ideas are not working, it may be time to seek family therapy or counseling. There many options available in Missouri, where I practice, which are charged on a sliding scale based on the parents’ income.
The most important thing to remember is that time does heal. Give the situation time and don’t force it or your child.
Margaret “Molly” P. Murphy is an Associate Attorney in the Arnold, Missouri office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. where she practices exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Ms. Murphy is admitted to practice law in the state of Missouri. Ms. Murphy was born and raised in St. Louis. She received her B.A. in Political Science and English Language and Literature in 1998 from the University of Tulsa where she graduated magna cum laude. Ms. Murphy received her Juris Doctor from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2001.