Fiancé feels frustrated with my kids behavior

Q – I am planning to re-marry this year. I have two sons ages 8 and 10.  My fiancé is a really good man but he finds it stressful because of my kids behavior like making a mess or leaving their stuff out. He also feels like my co-parent doesn’t help the situation. When my kids spend time with their Dad it’s all fun and games, no rules and lots of gifts. In my house there are limits and rules.  How do we handle it when the kids tell us Dad’s house is more fun?  I know the boys love me and fiancé but I really could use some advice.

A – First, you’re wise to be thinking now about how parenting issues may impact your new marriage.  While there is very little you can do to change the choices your children’s father makes, there are things you and your fiancé can do to alleviate the tension in your household.

To make sure your fiancé frustrations don’t continue to build, I’d suggest that the two of you spend time talking about parenting issues and discuss how you are going to deal with them together.  While I wouldn’t recommend that your finace jump right into the drivers seat regarding discipline, you both definitely need to be on the same page.   As you may already know, second marriages endure more stressors. As a result, they are also at  greater risk for ending in divorce. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 60 to 67% of couples don’t make it the second time around .  However, that doesn’t mean second marriages are doomed for failure.  Blended families and second marriages can be very rewarding, but it takes commitment, patience and good communication. Therefore, dealing with some of the challenges up front can save you both  a lot of heartache and headache down the road.

In regards to the issue of differences between homes, I recommend that you acknowledge things that are “different” with a very matter of fact attitude.  For example, lets say your kids told you that Grandma doesn’t make them eat their vegetables and instead she gives them extra chocolate pudding for dessert. While you may not be thrilled with what Grandma does,  chances are you’d tell your kids “Yep, going to Grandma’s is lots of fun, here we do things differently. Now eat your green beans.”

When kids bring up issues regarding the rules, privileges or activities in their other home, do your best to keep your cool and not overreact. It’s definitely okay to let kids know what happens in Dad’s house is Dad’s choice and you’re glad they enjoy their time with him.  In your home, the rules are different. Instead of judging, criticizing or analyzing what the other parent does (or doesn’t do), be very clear and consistent with your children about what happens in your home.  Keep in mind, all  kids at one time or another will test limits.  When parents split up, children may see that as an opportunity to play one parent off of the other.

By the way, remember to be gentle with yourself.   The benefits of being a Disneyland parent are short lived.  In the long run, children will remember you for how you loved them, not for what you bought them.  I would recommend avoiding that pitfall by concentrating on spending quality time (not money) with your children.