Getting remarried after a divorce is a big step toward moving on with your life after a painful time. It is a time of hope and renewal. It can also turn into a time of disagreement and discord with your former spouse if you aren’t careful!

The addition of a stepparent into your child’s life and into your co-parenting relationship with your former spouse can be a good thing or a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing. Much of the outcome is up to you. Depending on how your marriage ended there are bound to be some negative emotions from your former spouse which accompany your remarriage. Generally these emotions pass and do not need to interrupt your parenting relationship. What turns a few hurt feelings into a battle is most often what comes after the remarriage is complete and everyone tries to return to normal life with a new person in the mix.

A stepparent can be a wonderful addition to your child’s life. The relationship with a stepparent can be an enriching and valuable part of childhood. But there are some boundaries which a stepparent must respect in order to ease the transition. First and foremost, a stepparent must not attempt to assume a parental role. This does not mean that your new spouse is merely a visitor in your home, but it does mean that all decisions and important discussions related to your kids’ upbringing must occur only with your former spouse. The stepparent needs to kindly butt out and let the biological parents handle the important decisions of child rearing.

A second important boundary that a stepparent must respect is to always show respect. A stepparent’s view on what ended your prior marriage and who is to blame is a private discussion between you and your new spouse. It should never occur in front of, near, within earshot of or with your kids. Nothing will destroy a positive co-parenting relationship faster than the children reporting that a stepparent is speaking ill of the other parent.

Finally, it is important to discuss with the children what to call their new stepparent. A first name is often the best bet. Refrain from ever encouraging your children to call their new stepparent “Mom”, “Dad” or any version of those cherished words. It is wholly inappropriate and sends a confusing message to your children. It will also anger your co-parent and could lead you down a negative path.

Your children get one childhood. Protect it from parental strife by carefully choosing your next partner and carefully introducing that partner into your kids’ lives. Guard your co-parenting relationship with your ex-spouse very carefully as peace between parents has a huge impact on their childhood.