Tips for anyone with kids considering remarrying/committing to their partner or is remarried or in a committed relationship
These are ideas I have thought up by looking back on my experiences as an SD and SM. Please let me know what you think, and feel free to add your own ideas as well.
For those who have children that are getting/considering getting remarried or committing to someone:
a) While mandating that your children treat your spouse with courtesy and respect, give them permission to not like your partner. Then they don't feel pressured into liking your partner and it might make it easier on them in terms of accepting your partner.
b) Before you get remarried to/commit to your partner, come up with a game plan with them for how the two of you will handle things like your kids and your exes with whom you have kids (if your partner has kids). Take the lead in communicating with your ex. However, you and your partner need to write out a list of reasonable communication boundaries for yourself and your ex. If your partner doesn't feel OK with the amount of contact you have with your ex, maybe you could come up with a plan like exchanging emails with your ex once a week about how the kids' week went and discuss the kids' upcoming week. That way, you can still co-parent and work together if, say, one of your kids gets sent to the principal's office, and the kids aren't put in the middle by having to relay info between parents.
c) (And this ties into Do allow your partner to discipline your child. If you are more comfortable with taking the lead on discipline, and would prefer that your partner have a back-up role, that's fine, but at least give them a role so that they feel they have some control over what goes on in your home. Remember, it's their home too.If your partner wants to have an up-front role, that is reasonable too. Teachers discipline their students when they misbehave, and so do coaches, girl and boy scout leaders, etc. So stepparents should certainly have the right to do that too. If you feel that they came down too hard on your child, talk with your partner about it behind closed doors, just the two of you. Then, you can work out a compromise, go back to the child and your partner can apologize for coming down too hard, you can say together, "we made a mistake and should have handled it better, and we apologize for not doing so,and this is how we're (you, me and my partner) going to deal with it now."
d) Realize that your kids may well be hearing negative things about your partner and yourself from their other parent. Talk with your kids about this. Without bashing the other parent, or even naming the other parent, let them know that you know untrue things are being said about you and your partner, and that they can talk with you about it whenever they want and express (politely) how they're feeling about what is being said to them and the situation in general.
e) make your adult relationship your first priority. Of course you need to spend alone time with each of your kids but you also need to demand that the kids treat your partner with respect, establish firm communication boundaries with your exes, make sure your partner feels included at family activities, have a date night-even if it's on your time with the kids- this shows them what a healthy adult relationship (romantic one) is like. Also, don't cast your partner aside when your kids come over. You have enough affection and love in you to show everyone, including your partner, so nobody feels left out.
f) carve out alone time to spend with your kids too, and connect with them. Ask them how their lives are going, about their interests, hobbies, school, friends, etc. Let them know that just because you love your partner and your kids with your partner doesn't affect how much you love them, and that you love all your kids equally.
g) Also carve out time for family activities with your partner and the kids to go on walks, to the movies, on a bike ride, out to eat, and stuff like that. Make sure your partner is included in the conversation, that the kids politely acknowledge your partner, and that your partner feels included, by sitting next to them. Have the kids take turn sitting next to you on your other side so they don't feel left out, and everyone feels welcome.
Stay tuned, there's also tips coming for stepparents/soon to be stepparents!