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Dear Dr. Yael,

I lost my husband to Covid-19. I am in my late forties and my husband was older than me. He left me five amazing children. Two are married. I met a man who lost his wife and he has six children. Three of his children are married. We are trying to create a blended family. Our married children are very supportive, however, some of our single children are not thrilled with this idea. I know that statistically second marriages fail due to problems with the children. We both want this to work. Please respond with ideas on how to navigate this situation.

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Hoping to create a blended family

 

Dear Hoping to create a blended family,

The logistics of a second marriage can definitely be more complicated with children involved, though that does not mean it cannot work. The most important thing you need to tell yourself is that having a successful blended family can take time. At first the children may be resentful towards your new spouse because they miss their own biological parent, especially in your case, where the parents have unfortunately passed away. It is also imperative to remind your children constantly (and have your new husband remind his children constantly) that you love them and that they will always be a priority to you. Your children may be scared that they will fall through the cracks. Relocating can also make things more difficult for the children, but you didn’t mention whether this was a factor. If possible, try to not relocate teenagers as that would be very difficult for them.

As noted above, you need to give yourselves time to come together as a family. You can facilitate this process by coming up with some new family traditions like a weekly pizza and game night or a monthly outing to a restaurant (maybe everyone gets a chance to choose their favorite). Having shared experiences like these can support bonding and can allow your new family to take on its own identity.

It is also imperative that you work hard to keep the spark in your marriage alive and that you always work on communication. Making sure you check in with each other daily can help keep your relationship strong and having monthly (or more often) date nights without the children can help keep the romance alive.

If things do not go as planned or blending your family is more challenging than you anticipated, think back to why you and your spouse decided to get married. Remember that you love each other and that all relationships have obstacles. If you and your husband can commit to jumping over the hurdles and building a strong foundation together, you will be more likely to get through whatever challenges come your way. You and your spouse can come up with supportive mantras like, “This is a tough time for us, but we will get through it together as a team!” or “We are in this together no matter what!”

Lastly, it’s crucial that you give your children and your husband’s children space to grieve their losses. They may need individual therapy to deal with all of the emotions that can come up when they are part of a family again. Having you around will highlight that your husband’s children’s mother is NOT around and your children will likely feel the same about having your new husband around. Family and/or marital therapy may also be needed to help everyone process all of the loss and emotions that may surface. Communication is key, but children and teenagers sometimes need encouragement to explore what they are feelings and why they are acting a certain way. Remember that if any of the children are disrespectful or acting out, it’s coming from a place of pain! Try not to punish and to explore what’s going on instead. This does not mean that there are not any consequences to behavior; however, a punishment and yelling cycle will only lead to more disrespect and an exacerbation of the issues at hand. If any of the children are showing more extreme behavior, get professional help as soon as possible to assist you in navigating the situation.

Hatzlocha in this exciting new chapter of your life and remember to let yourself grieve your own loss and to work on creating a very strong foundation so that you can meet any challenges that arise head on!

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.