Couples who are getting married to a spouse with a child or children from a previous marriage or relationship, may find themselves dealing with the complications that come with having step children. According to the National Step-Parenting Association, over 25% of brides and grooms today, have children from a previous marriage. Some complications that are expected include the children feeling left out or threatened at the loss of their parent’s attention and time. These children may feel they are no longer loved or wanted by their parent despite the best of intentions. Being the “new face” in the family unit can become a challenge for everyone.
So how do you go about making your step-children comfortable with the idea of the upcoming marriage? Try to incorporate them in the wedding planning from the beginning. Let them hear about the wedding straight from the couple instead of relying on family friends or neighbors. It shows an extension of trust and love; to show that the children are going to be a part of the family unit rather than being considered an outsider.
For older children, make them a part of the wedding planning. Go shopping with them. Allow them to make decorations, wedding favors, or set up bouquets. Invite them to be a part of the wedding party. Find out what kind of outfits they’d like to wear. For the older girls, have them be involved when makeup, hair and nails are being done before the ceremony. You have to keep in mind that they need the time to adjust to the changes and forcing them to enjoy themselves might not be beneficial. Let them get involved at their own pace.
When exchanging the wedding vows, you can add their names if you’re having a traditional service. If you choose not to write your own vows, you can always add their names when the vows are recited. So instead of simply having “I, Mary, take you, John, to be my lawfully wedded husband,” you can say “I, Mary, take you, John to be my lawfully wedded husband and your children, Amy and Brian, to love as if they were my own.” You can also choose to add little fun moments or quotes about the children within the vow, like promising to teach them how to play baseball or being there for every ballet practice. That gesture lets them know they are being involved in your new life as a married couple, and that you actually care enough to know about their likes and dislikes.
The new step-parent might choose to give the child a medallion that represents the family. This medallion is of oval-shape and is made up of three intertwining circles that represent the parent, the new step-parent, and the child. The name of the child can be engraved on the back of the medallion and it comes with a booklet with suggested readings or prayers.
Getting to establish a relationship with your step-child takes time and patience, and the first step to doing this is making them a part of the most special day in your life.