‘’The day dad married Eileen was the worst day of my life’’ recalls Anne. I was mad! Mad at dad for being a traitor to my mum, mad at mum for leaving without a fight, mad at the 2 brats(Eileen’s Kids) who were to come live in our house, but most of all, I was mad at Eileen, I hated her, and because I knew it wasn’t right to hate, I was mad at myself too. (Names have been changed).
Feelings, such as described by Anne above is what most teenagers and young adults experience at the remarriage of a parent.
According to a report on YourDivorceQuestions.org, a blog developed by Professor Alan Hawkins, Ph.D, a Director of the Marriage Education and Research Initiative at Brigham Young University (BYU) in Provo, Utah, divorce tends to affect boys and girls in different ways, with girls having a tendency to harbor negative feelings such as depression, anger, and psychological issues for a much longer time than boys. This article will focus more on the effect of divorce and remarrying on teenage girls.
Divorce has a negative impact on the academics and occupational pursuits of teenage girls, with about 10 percent of girls with divorced parents losing interest in school work.
Because many parents of divorce struggle themselves with the effects and need someone to turn to for support and understanding, they (especially mothers) turn to their children, particularly to their young daughters for this support, which in turn make the young girls feel like they have to mature faster. This stresses the young girls as they tend to struggle when a parent discloses personal problems to them, like they would to an adult friend.
The remarriage of a parent destroys all hopes of reconciliation between your parents and can be even more frustrating if it comes on the heels of the death of one parent.
Most of the challenges young girls face include, coping with the authority of a step parent, learning to share and to compromise, and coping with unequal treatment where step siblings are involved. With all the challenges a parents remarrying can bring on teenage girls, death of a parent or serious marital incompatibility has made it something most young girls will have to deal with in their life time.
How then, can young girls deal with their parent’s remarriage and have a successful step parent relationship? Find some steps to help with the adjustment below.
- Minimize negativity and challenge your misconceptions about your new step-parent: Critically ask yourself why you do not want your parent to remarry. This will give you a clear head and help you prevent a potential rift. You may be worried about the motive of a step parent marrying your own parent, especially when there is a significant age difference between them. You may be worried that he or she is marrying your parent because of their money or social position. If this is the case, it will help to have a frank discussion with your parent. Getting such worries off your chest can help you cope with your parent’s remarriage. You can also try to spend more time with the new couple as seeing how happy this person make your parent can help you abate any negative feelings.
- Respect their relationship; even if you do not agree with it-Sometimes, spending time with the couple as recommended in the first step might expose you to habits or mannerism you do not like about your step parent. At times like this, it will help to recognize that your parent does not necessarily need your permission to remarry and that even blood relations might have different taste in what they look out for in a partner. Show respect at all times. Address the new spouse by their preferred name or title and be cordial as you normally would to someone of their age group. Your parent and step parent will be pleased at your effort in trying to be welcoming to their new spouse.
- Do not compare your step-parent with your biological parent; It is easy to think of how different your step parent is to your biological parent. Whether the comparison places your step –parent in a higher light than your biological one, psychologist have said all such comparisons have a negative impact on the emotional health of the teenage girl. As hard as this may seem, shun all comparisons as you will be opening up yourself for disappointment if you do so. No two individuals are exactly the same. Always remind yourself that this person is providing needed companionship for your parent, if that is any consolation. You can look out for the good side of your step parent and focus more on that.
- Give attention to yourself: You may have been a companion for your parent for a while. Now that they have found love again, you will have more time to focus more on your own life. Create new goals and try to reach them. Try getting out more often and generally revive your social calendar. Take a new class; try a new skill, etc.
- Get closure; Most teenage girls resent their parents new mate because they feel accepting them will be disloyal to the deceased or divorced parent. While these feelings are normal, they are not correct. Be kind to yourself and allow your emotions to gradually adjust to the new situation. Reaching out to your other parent if divorced can help you deal with feelings of guilt. As much as possible, try to avoid carrying tales about your step parent to your other parent. Seeing a professional therapist might also help if feelings are too hard to deal with.
It might take several years before you develop trust and become very comfortable with members of a step family. Do not despair, if you have tried these tips and are still having an awkward relationship with your step parent or siblings. You need a lot of patience.
Be hopeful, you can have a successful step parent relationship.