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Helping Son Adjust to New Marriage
Q: I am a single parent of an eight-year-old boy. I am getting married next month, and I am afraid he will have a hard time adjusting. We have always lived with my parents and will be moving out when I get married. What can I do to make the change easier for him?
A: It will be normal for your son to undergo some difficulty adjusting to a new home and family life with you and his stepfather. He has known only a life with his grandparents and you -- it has always been the four of you. I hope that your future husband has attempted to cultivate a caring relationship with your son. It would not be surprising if your son blames your boyfriend for turning his life upside-down and causing him to feel somewhat lost and insecure.
I recommend that you not introduce many new routines into your son's life. Allow him to create the kind of bedroom he wants. Maintain the same daily routines. Be careful to spend at least as much one-on-one time with him, if not a little more, as you did before. Do everything you can to reassure him that your relationship with him is as strong and special as ever. As much as you may be tempted to slack off in the discipline department, he needs you to be the primary love and authority figure in his life. Your new husband should not be placed in a role that only you should occupy.
And lastly, try to maintain as much close contact with your parents as is healthy and possible. If your son has developed a close relationship with them throughout his life, he should not be made to feel that this closeness has come to an end because of your marriage. Stay connected to his emotions by asking him open-ended questions: "What's changed the most for you? Do you like our new apartment/house? What are you looking forward to the most when we move into our own place? Are you nervous or scared about the move?" As long as you put yourself in his shoes, you'll be tuned in to making this transition and his new life a good one.
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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.