Getting Remarried With Adult Children

Published On: January 5, 2024|Categories: Dating After Divorce, Dating Tips, Heartbreak and Healing|5 min read|

Remarrying later in life brings its own set of twists and turns. Navigating stepfamily dynamics, especially with grown-up children, can be challenging. From step-parenting challenges to stepping into the grandparent gig, we’ve got the wisdom you need. Dive in for our advice to make your love story unfold as smoothly as possible.

Why it Can Be Difficult

Numerous long-term studies have consistently shown what many stepparents have personally encountered: a lot of kids are unfriendly and resistant to their parent’s new spouse, often lasting for years, because they feel torn between loyalties. Relationship expert Wednesday Martin says the challenges of loyalty, sadness, and acting out following a divorce extend beyond children; they also impact adult stepchildren.

Research highlights that grown-up stepchildren face similar emotions, such as discomfort seeing their parent and stepparent show affection, feeling lonely or isolated, struggling with loyalty conflicts (“If I like my stepmom, am I betraying my mom?”), competing with the stepparent, and feeling pressured to build a relationship.

Remarriage expert Terry Gaspard says that it’s important to understand that building trust can take time, and patience is the key to building a solid relationship. Researchers Kay Pasley and Marilyn Ihinger-Tallman have observed that although children usually don’t have much influence when their parent decides to remarry, they do influence the success or failure of the marriage. Your approach to the step-parent relationship—whether you’re the step- or biological parent—will be most successful if it’s respectful and considerate of their feelings.

If you’re remarrying following the death of a spouse, this comes with its own unique complications. Psychologist Joshua Coleman says the potential for conflict in these relationships is especially high due to the intense emotions that accompany grief. He says that many adult children in this position feel that their parents should never remarry, so adjusting to a new step-parent can be quite a challenge.

Issues such as estate planning and inheritance can also become significant, possibly contributing to heightened levels of anxiety and resentment. Financial planner Lili Vasileff says that a conversation about these things is absolutely critical. It’s important to discuss what will happen to things like retirement savings, life insurance policies, and real estate. This is also the time to ensure that any family heirlooms you want to pass on are entrusted to your children.

Living as a Blended Family

Many grown-up children say their parents rarely talk about their past family lives. According to licensed marriage and family therapist Carol Hughes, grown children often feel overshadowed by the children and grandchildren of a new partner, especially if this “new family” takes up more of your time than you spent with them before.

When a significant other moves into the family home, it can be painful for children, both young and grown. Psychology professor Jerry M. Burger argues that our childhood home is a part of our personal identity. This can make it very distressing to see changes, especially the introduction of a new person. Adult children may feel like you’ve replaced their other parent or erased their family and your history together.

To avoid your adult children’s fear growing into resentment for your relationship, have an open discussion with them. You can let them know you genuinely hear what they’re saying, and listen when they speak. Avoid telling them how they should feel or what to do. Expecting everyone to be instantly happy as a big family, may leave you disappointed if reality is not that. Your adult child may not be as thrilled about your decision as you are.

Reassure your adult child that you still want to spend one-on-one time with them. Take the initiative to schedule this time and reminisce about fond memories, showing that you value the family you have together and haven’t erased their history with you and their other parent. Remember, you will always be the parent, so try to understand and acknowledge their experiences and feelings.


Making a new family when people marry or blend families can be a more complex task when grandchildren are involved. Patricia Papernow, psychologist and author of Surviving and Thriving in Stepfamily Relationships: What Works and What Doesn’t, says people often expect the process to be smooth, but it’s more challenging in reality. She emphasizes that adults in the family need to prioritize the well-being of the children and avoid putting them in awkward situations.

Papernow advises against discussing difficulties or relationship issues during family gatherings to keep them safe and neutral. She also warns against creating tension between adults, as it can be tough on kids. Encouraging adult children not to say negative things or to have heated conversations in front of grandchildren is important.

When there’s a significant family change like a remarriage, Papernow advises that step-grandparents can play a supportive role for the child. People often fail to discuss these changes with kids, so it’s valuable to have someone who can openly say, “This is a big change.” Grandparents are often well-placed to fulfill this role.

Papernow suggests that if you’re trying to show you’re a good step-grandparent, it’s important not to rush things. It’s easy to get too involved quickly. Take it slow, and be aware of any discomfort or tension with other adults in their life. The focus should be on sharing time and affection with the grandchildren, not to compete for their attention.

Navigating the complexities of stepfamily dynamics can be challenging, but with patience and open communication, a beautiful family relationship is possible. Take the time to understand each other’s perspectives and allow the relationship to develop naturally. Over time, a strong and positive connection with your family can happen, and your efforts from the start of the relationship will be worth it.

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