Most kids have mixed feelings when a parent remarries. They may be excited about getting a stepparent or anxious about being ignored within the new family, says Joanna Levine, a San Francisco psychotherapist specializing in parent-child relationships. To ease concerns and make sure that the big day is special for everyone, experts suggest that the biological parent takes these measures before walking down the aisle:
Talk About It in Private
Break the good news when your fiance isn't around, and let your child express any fears or anxieties. Reassure her that the new marriage won't change her relationship with you or her other biological parent. You should also alert your former spouse before or soon after you tell your youngster, allowing him or her time to digest the information when the child isn't around.
Ask Him to Participate
If your child doesn't want to join in the festivities, don't force him to. Instead, reassure him that you love him regardless of whether or not he comes. If he wants to attend but doesn't want to participate, respect that too.
Get Her Involved
If she decides to participate, give her a task appropriate for her age and abilities. Toddlers might give flowers to the bride and groom. Older kids can help light ceremonial candles or act as a flower girl, ring bearer, or honor attendant. Watching over the guest book or handing out pamphlets is great for a sociable youngster. And whatever the child's age, include her throughout the post-ceremony festivities by seating her at the table with you.
Create Kid Space
Regardless of the role your child takes in the ceremony, by the time the reception rolls around, he'll be exhausted. If possible, designate a separate room or area where all the kids at the wedding can relax. By the end of the night, you might want to join them.