May 18, 2017
Teen's Take on Parent Remarriage

A teenager responds to Rabbi Gershon Schusterman's article about a parent remarrying offering a different perspective.

By C. Davidman - N'shei Chabad Newsletter

I read Rabbi Gershon Schusterman's article on remarriage with interest. I was surprised to see the impact of remarriage on children mentioned only briefly, and more or less brushed aside with "it's best for the children even if it's hard."

With respect, I'd like to offer a different perspective, based on my own experiences and conversations with my siblings.

The effect of remarriage on children (after divorce or death or a parent) is often underestimated, but it is significant.

Imagine being given a spouse you must marry, with no alternative and no way out. He or she is simply foisted upon you, whether you like each other or not, and everyone around you treats it like the ultimate simchah.

This is what one's parent's remarriage is like for children and teenagers. A strange, unfamiliar, unrelated adult moves into the house. (And even more importantly than in the spouse analogy, here the stranger is in a position of authority over the children.) The child's life is in turmoil, yet everyone else is treating this trauma as a joyous, thrilling occasion!

At the same time, people now view the family as "complete" and often withdraw support they had offered previously, such as Shabbos and Yom Tov invitations. But this is exactly when the children need it most! Family occasions with this new stranger in the house can be excruciating.

After my mother remarried, I came to dread Shabbos and Yom Tov. During the week, it was difficult but manageable. Between school, homework, friends, siblings still living at home, and the computer, I was able to keep busy and distract myself enough to cope most of the time. There was still a constant tightness in my chest and an ever-present tension, but I had my "escapes." Come Shabbos, there were no distractions. It was just our "family." During the week, it wasn't too hard to come up with excuses for missing meals. "I have to study" or "I'm on the phone." But on Shabbos, none of that applied, and my siblings and I had to sit through long, uncomfortable meals together. My mother and her husband were so wrapped up in their new relationship, they may have been truly oblivious to the extent of our discomfort. I don't know.

It's hard to explain the discomfort and tension to anyone who hasn't experienced it, but as I sat at that table, week after week, I physically struggled to breath. All I wanted was to run out the door and never look back. I used to walk home from shul slowly, watching all the normal families and just wishing one of them would invite me. Ideally, just me, so I could get a break from the tension at home. But even if we were invited out as a family, it was infinitely better than being at home together. Eventually, Shabbos became so unbearable that I started secretly using the computer in my room on Shabbos. I felt so stuck, and there was no one in real life I could talk to, but on the computer I could connect with others and relieve a small measure of my pain. As soon as I left home, I stopped, but it took many, many years until I could actually enjoy Shabbos and Yom Tov.

Remarriages often also cause tremendous strain between the children and the actual biological parent. Usually, the parent is so desperate to remarry that they convince themselves it's best for the kids. Then, when it happens and all is far from fine, because the parent is so happy and excited with the new relationship it is easy for them to overlook, underestimate, brush off, or completely deny the difficult time their children are facing. Other people, too, see the remarriage as the solution to the family's previous difficult situation, and are loathe to acknowledge that the children's difficulties may have now only intensified.

And it can be permanent. The assumption that sooner or later the children will "come around" is faulty. Nor should they be forced to. The situation is unnatural, and many end up feeling as if they no longer have a home.

Often, the biological parent is so desperate for it to work that they try to force the relationship between the new parent and the children. I know of one woman who remarried and told everyone "the kids will figure out what kind of relationship they want to have with him on their own. It's up to them." But at the very same time, at home she was doing everything she could to force them to spend time together, which of course backfired. For example, she would promise to take a child somewhere special, and as they were on their way out the door, she would switch with her husband and tell the child, "Oh, he's going to take you instead," giving the child no way to back out.

The same way forced friendships never work, this is a sure recipe for disaster. In that family, by trying to force the relationship between her new husband and her children, the only thing the mother accomplished was alienating her children. None of them developed a lasting relationship with him, their relationship with her took a turn for the worse, all left home as soon as possible, and they rarely visit.

In frum life, because of the laws of yichud and negia, some of these issues are magnified. Consider the teenager who can no longer leave her bedroom unless she is 100% tzniusdik because there is an unrelated adult male living in the house. She can no longer sing Haneiros Halalu at Chanukah or join in the Shabbos zemiros. Alternatively, perhaps the mother is pushing for normalcy and urging the daughter to sing along which goes against everything that has been ingrained in her over the years. Imagine the teenage boy who comes home, finds his new stepmother alone at home, and has to either leave or open a door, and imagine the stepmother doesn't appreciate having a door opened, so he stops doing it, and soon just stops coming home during lunch break altogether, even though no lunch is served at his school. These are examples of some of the small issues which compound the greater issues, and make the children feel like strangers in their own home.

When the step-parent is of the same sex, there are other challenges. The boys are expected to sit with him in shul. The girls are expected to invite her to school events.

Moreover, our culture of dating so secretively does not do the children any favors. Of course, one should not introduce their children to every person they meet. But the same way one should take dating longer and slower the second time around, surely meeting the children and feeling out how those relationships might work should be part of the pre-engagement stage in a remarriage. When the children are unaware the parent is dating at all, only to have the news sprung on them that the parent is now engaged to someone they've never met, you're already starting out ten steps behind.

I know of a number of cases in which children received phone calls from their parents during sleep-away camp announcing their engagement to someone the children had never met. Understandably, when the children are away the parents find themselves with more available time to invest in dating. The excitement can be overwhelming and the desire to formalize and announce it may be hard to contain. But think about the children! Is it fair to them? Picture your child, immersed in the camp experience, being called away from lunch to take an unexpected phone call from home. By the time he returns to the table, where the cheering and singing continues unabated, his life has completely changed! An entirely new and different reality awaits him when camp ends and he returns home, and he had no warning and absolutely no idea what to expect. Would you do that to another adult? Why to a child?

While there is a small window to remarry with less risk of causing ongoing pain and discomfort to the children when the children are very, very young, once the children are pre-teens and older, it is very difficult if not impossible to avoid. Moreover, many parents are sure they have such a strong relationship with their children that they know how their children feel about their remarriage. Unfortunately, that is very often not the case.

It is also imperative to consider the way this marriage will color the children's perception of marriage and affect their future relationships. While living in a single-parent home comes with its own challenges, and does not provide the children a model of marriage to emulate, which are serious problems, remarriage has its own set of negatives and repercussions, when the children are not very young or all grown up.

For one young woman I know, her father's remarriage marked the beginning of such a difficult period in her life that for many years thereafter she couldn't tolerate going to weddings. Every wedding was a reminder of the wedding that had turned her life upside down. Just hearing the Alter Rebbe's niggun made her entire body shake. She missed many friends' weddings and when she was finally ready for her own, she created an entirely non-traditional wedding that reminded her in no way of her father's.

I would beg all single parents to remember that a parent's first responsibility is towards the children that he or she already has. Children did not choose or ask to be born. If the best thing for them is to wait and marry again after they are grown and settled in their adult lives (and it often is), then I feel that is what the parent—who chose to have the children—should do.


The author may be contacted at ceedavidman@gmail.com. Letters to the N'shei Chabad Newsletter may be sent to submissions@nsheichabadnewsletter.com



Most Read Most Comments


Opinions and Comments
1
Wow
So so well written and true. Thank you!!
(5/18/2017 10:18:19 PM)
2
Wow.
I never realized how painful this is for children.
(5/18/2017 10:18:36 PM)
3
Agree
Very well said. I couldn't agree more.
(5/18/2017 10:43:56 PM)
4
huh
children are not supposed to go to the chuppas of parents
(5/18/2017 10:56:44 PM)
5
very impressed!
One word: beautifully written! May Hashem send you only joy in your life and be there for your children no matter what, especially since you know what it means to loose a parent.
(5/18/2017 11:09:01 PM)
6
éúåîä îâéì ÷èï îàåã
I love it!!!! Bc of this my father never remarried, he such a great devoted father, at thank u so much 4 being so good 2us
(5/18/2017 11:09:28 PM)
7
Single parent
As a single parent, I agree with your words!! It is terrible for a child to feel they no longer have a home, and that they have "lost" their parent. I support your words that a parent's first responsibility is to their children, and that perhaps, a parent must delay remarriage until the children have more independence and don't have to be confined to the home they don't feel comfortable in.
(5/18/2017 11:12:43 PM)
8
Thank you!
My mother was remarried when I was 14, and despite the fact that I am now 20, I cannot accept him as my father. Not being able to sing, wear my normal pajamas outside my room, or doing any of the things I did before my mother's marriage is a very large price to pay. I'm just glad that my mother never forced the issue, and allowed me to have space from my stepfather. The irony is that I gained new family, and I accepted them just fine, in fact, my younger cousin had become a surrogate sister to me! Maybe it's the distance, they're not living in the same house, but it's easier to accept them than stepfather dearest.
(5/18/2017 11:20:14 PM)
9
Another perspective: thank God my mom remarried
My parents divorced when I was 3. My mom remarried when I was almost 6. I have to say, looking back now that I'm 14, it was the best thing. My stepdad is great. While our personalities are quite different, I live in an intact home. (My dad remarried and then divorced again, and is now single.) My siblings and I spend about 40% of the time with our dad. My mom and stepdad are on great terms with my dad, and that just makes things so much better.
Obviously the best thing would have been if my parents could have worked things out. But that wasn't meant to be; they are so different they shouldn't have married in the first place. With that in mind, thank God my mom remarried. Just another perspective.
(5/18/2017 11:23:28 PM)
10
ùôéâì éøåùìéí
In defense of Harav Hagaon Gershon Shusterman.You have attacked the concept of moving forward after lo oleinu a death or divorce. Sadly your suffering occurred because of many factors including but not limited to putting a guilt trip on your mother.You need a lot of therapy from a specialist.I recommend Rabbi Schmidt here in Israel.He's the best👍
(5/18/2017 11:48:48 PM)
11
no one should be on there own
I agree and disagree no woman or man should be on there own and not have to wait for the kids to move out and then get married kids do not no how lonely it can be without having someone with themto help adv ise and help with the kids .so option is to make sure when kids are around they should tryand not to make the kids cringe and uncomfortable put the kids first as kids grow up leave home and then if somrones on there own not good
(5/19/2017 12:36:41 AM)
12
Don't agree
from personal experience with my own remarried (not to each other) parents I think it is cruel not to want parents to be happy. However I do think that the kids need to meet the prospective husband/wife once the dating gets serious and be asked their opinion. I agree that community help is important. And the family should have a therapist in place for dealing with issues when they crop up.
(5/19/2017 12:36:53 AM)
13
Wow
What an eye opener. Very well written and very informative.

I disagree with the final sentence though. Every effort should be made to understand and help the children. But the parent should not feel they need to stay single to protect the kids. With sensitivity and care people can both remarry and give the kids their space and respect.
(5/19/2017 1:11:09 AM)
14
beautifully written
Thank you for sharing your experience so that we can all learn what others are going through.
Hashem Bless,
David Cohen
(5/19/2017 1:13:39 AM)
15
Great!
Very well explained and thoughtful.
(5/19/2017 1:25:43 AM)
16
Not so poshut
It's a very delicate situation
Most of Children suffer a lot but is the best for the parents
Mature children think about the joy of their father/mother , knowing that eventually they are going to make their own life and they would also like to remarried if they would be in the same in the same situation
(5/19/2017 1:46:31 AM)
17
Wow
So moving, I'm in tears
Thank you
(5/19/2017 4:12:33 AM)
18
100% true
am crying reading this, to all the people who will comment, please dont hurt us more by denying or minimising our pain. yes you will say that you know somewhere thats different or that its not always like thistrue there are most probably some miracle homes but unless you have lived this firsthand you cannot know so spare us your judgement
(5/19/2017 5:41:54 AM)
19
Sorry for your bad experiense
It was a bad experience for you. But I know several remarriage situation that turned out wonderful. There is no reason kids can't form a good relationship with a step parent if they gave them a shot. Teens are notoriously emotionally immature. Not to say they don't have a right to their feelings but a parent has a right to a life and can be very lonely without a spouse. The only thing I think is a mistake is not making it a family deal. Kids have to understand and give it a fair shot but parents have to introduce and let future spouse get to know the kids before. Yes some semantics are difficult but life is difficult but nothing is unworkable. Both sides have to give an effort.
(5/19/2017 6:19:22 AM)
20
Second marriages
Unfortunately, the writer suffered from a terrible experience.
However, there are second marriages that do work. It depends on the couple and how sensitive they are to their new positions, and added responsibilities.
(5/19/2017 6:39:43 AM)
21
a wonderful article
As someone whose parent died and the other parent remarried albeit successfully over forty years ago, this article really rings true. Yes an adult wants to remarry for all sorts of reasons but don't spring it on your kids an don't play happy families. Kids didnt ask this stranger into their lives, be sensitive.

(5/19/2017 7:18:50 AM)
22
Lived through this
Your article is spot on!
Well.done
(5/19/2017 7:35:04 AM)
23
bravo
Excellent response...Kol Hakovod..In total agreement. Good luck to you..I wish you well.
(5/19/2017 7:36:05 AM)
24
Very interesting and very poignant.
As a father and a stepfather I can relate to this woman. Lots to say but I'll keep it in for now.
(5/19/2017 7:40:11 AM)
25
Very well articulated
Thank you for writing this. You really opened up my eyes to this in a very down to earth and clear way.

Thaks for taking the time to enlighten and educate.
(5/19/2017 8:14:13 AM)
26
WERE IS THE BALANCE?
WHAT A DIFFICULT READ!!!
YES, THERE HAS TO BE A BALANCE BETWEEN THE HAPPINESS OF THE CHILDREN AND THEIR PARENTS.
MAYBE CHILDREN WITH NEW PARENTS SHOULD GO FOR THERAPY AS WELL AS THEIR PARENTS.
IS IT REALLY FAIR TO ASK A YOUNG PARENT WITH YOUNG CHILDREN TO WAIT FOR THEIR HAPPINESS?
HOW ABOUT THE EXTENDED FAMILY: THEY SHOULD BE THERE FOR THE CHILDREN.
I AM SO SAD TO READ YOUR POINT OF YOU AND I FEEL YOUR PAIN AND AGONY.
THERE MUST BE A HAPPY MEDIUM.
I SINCERELY HOPE YOU HAVE YOUR OWN FAMILY NOW AND ARE VERY HAPPY.
YOU CERTAINLY DESERVE TO HAVE A FULFILLED LIFE.
(5/19/2017 8:33:49 AM)
27
Perspective
Maybe Nshei chabad newsletter should have a follow up with a therapist and successful blended families to give tips on how to make a second marriage work. It is a huge transition for the new couple and the children, however it should not discourage people to remarry!!!

(5/19/2017 8:41:10 AM)
28
Dovber
@#10 -Shpigel Jerusalem:

If everyone was able to empathize and show a listening ear, instead of referring to therapists like you do, we wouldn't need (as many) therapists. Your callous response, devoid of any empathy, does not belong here.

As someone who grew up with a step-mom from age 6, I completely agree with the author of this post. 100% spot on.
(5/19/2017 8:42:09 AM)
29
Loose vs lose
Does anyone in the CH community know how to spell or use proper grammar?
(5/19/2017 8:47:06 AM)
30
Another perspective from the same situation
before one of my parents got engaged i remember my parent asking me if its ok to remarry the person my parent was dating. And I said yes,bc who am I to stop someone from getting married? Yes, it did change the home. But why should I as a child stop a parent from marrying their other half? I think what helped me accept it more was that I was asked! It wasnt sprung on me, I also was part of the decision making. Im sharing a different perspective, that yes it does always change the home. But it doesnt mean it will be as bad as the reader says. For me it was hard, my other sibling like my stepparent. Everyone has a diff experience. Though support is always needed even if its a good change, bc as you write its a new person living in your home...
(5/19/2017 8:49:10 AM)
31
A married child's perspective
Dear authtor, I feel your pain. I'm sorry that you had to go through that, especially in the manner that it was done.

Dear parent,
Please allow me to share a few pointers for parents who choose to remarry, and this includes once your children are married and out of the house!

* Please try not to show affection to your new spouse in front of us. I'm talking about things like whispering, touching each other.

* It is incredibly painful when the parent avoids mentioning the deceased spouse in front of the new spouse or takes down pictures of the first spouse in the home.
I'm sorry. You spent decades with your first spouse and they are the parent of your children. Most likely, your new spouse also lost their first spouse. Why not have pictures of both of them in your home? I understand if you feel it is insensitive to have a picture with you and your first spouse, but please don't erase the memory of your child's parent from your home and life.

* Please don't force your children to have a relationship with your new spouse. It will only backfire. We are happy that you are not alone. Truly. I'm happy you remarried and I think you did the right thing. But it does will never be one big happy family again. Please let go of that dream, and you will be happier.

If it is important to your new spouse to have a relationship with your children, remember that they are the older, more mature adult. They should take the initiative to form a relationship. In a non annoying way, of course. For example, they can send small gifts, call on birthdays etc...

My dear parent, I'm truly pained that you lost the love of your life way too early, at a time when you were just starting to enjoy the nachas. I know you miss your deceased spouse and grieved and continue to grieve very deeply. I am truly grateful that you remarried. I am also grateful that you waited until we were all married. Remarriage is definitely the lesser of the two evils.

May we merit Moshiach right now when we will all be reunited with our loved ones.
(5/19/2017 9:01:11 AM)
32
Wow, so many must agree with you...
Thank you for saying what must be said.
(5/19/2017 9:12:35 AM)
33
Don't be a martyr - either the kids or the adult
Life is not always a bowl of roses - so in every single situation GET HELP!!! My mashpia, G-d bless her, absolutely insisted I together with my kids, and then together with my perspective new spouse, spent many months speaking with a very experienced therapist. Alot of people, including my rov and family, told me that we're both good people and we'll take good care of the kids, and dont worry it'll all work out. Only my mashpia kept insisting if it's good, why not make sure it's all good all around and work out things right now, before you're all living together. And boy was she right! It cost alot of money, but it lasted way more than the flowers!!
(5/19/2017 9:50:51 AM)
34
#10
As a child of a parent that passed away. How can you even say such a thing no one is saying our parents should not get remarried CV, rather the author is just saying a fact of what happens and you also need to take care of your children's feelngs.
(5/19/2017 9:52:18 AM)
35
A divorced father
My dear daughter I don't ignore your pain - but it is yours alone to deal with .let us see u make the choice to sleep alone , have shabbos alone, have no one to come home to with tragedy looming. It is sad that you take things from such a highly selfish view . I hope u get help .
(5/19/2017 10:28:08 AM)
36
I am pitied
I am pitied because I have not remarried after 20 years. Even my children do not know the real reason. Dear author u have articulated it. I haven't remarried on purpose to protect our family (which some of you may define as broken). I even wonder if my children understand it was because of them and not because I just couldn't find the second right one. And to those that pity please stop. Spend that energy making your (perhaps not) perfect family even more perfect.
(5/19/2017 10:37:50 AM)
37
important to know
Although not every story turns out like the writer describes, it is a real eye-opener for most of us. When a parent is alone and struggling, and they see their children suffering from the situation in so many ways, it seems as if the only 'happily ever after' possibility for them will be if they manage to remarry and have a 'normal' home. but here we see how the children (or at least older children) view that attempt at normalcy. For them, it is NOT normal, it is uncomfortable and threatening. In the best case it will be challenging, and there will be some loss for the children, even if it is just the sense of 'loss' of their old home, their parent's full attention, or their personal space. Very important for the whole community to be aware, and try to help each other thru these tough changes.
(5/19/2017 10:43:12 AM)
38
To #35
In response, I'll just directly quote the author:

"I would beg all single parents to remember that a parent's first responsibility is towards the children that he or she already has. Children did not choose or ask to be born. If the best thing for them is to wait and marry again after they are grown and settled in their adult lives (and it often is), then I feel that is what the parent—who chose to have the children—should do."

Did you not read the article? let us see you become a stranger in your own home, sit through miserable and painful Shabbos meals, have the tragedy of your life ignored and covered over with a veritable stranger. 'It is sad that you take things from such a highly selfish view. I hope you get help.'
(5/19/2017 10:48:45 AM)
39
Citizen Berel
@29

You have made that mistake before and you have mistaken between there and their and they're don't lie.

Why you sublimated your petty pedantry into a communal rebuke is beyond me.
(5/19/2017 11:12:24 AM)
40
every situation is different
I understand the suffering the author went through. It is never easy. But in many cases remarriage turns out to be a huge blessing. I know a family where the parents divorced and the mother remarried a few years later and it was absolutely the healthiest thing she could have done. her children all turned out balanced and normal because they saw a normal happy marriage and the step father treated them even better than their own father did. Every case is different. Every situation is different. If a parent divorces, it is often very healthy for children to see the parents remarry and experience a healthy happy relationship at home. Things are not one sided ever. And therefore each situation must be evaluated on its own. However, keeping the childrens feelings as a priority is a must. When there is a remarriage it has to be dealt with delicately and sensitively so the children handle it right and do not feel threatened, sad or depressed etc. There are ways to deal with things. But to suggest a parent should not remarry is not a better situation. single parents often have a very hard time bringing up their kids alone and there is no evidence that is a healthier situation at all.
(5/19/2017 11:48:55 AM)
41
Same
I remember my father remarried
I was told after the fact.i had my own family but even visiting i no longer felt i was home.yes he wanted a home and new wife.i get it.But it was no longer my father.I was in a strange home and it was never the same again.
(5/19/2017 11:53:44 AM)
42
A few words to the author and all that agree with her
Am I the only one who noticed how self centered and narcissistic the author sounds??
No where does the child care that the parent is left to be alone to fend for themselves pay their own bills as well as the kids and be the sole breadwinner and lack of emotional support she needs. Losing a spouse is harder in a way than losing a parent and no one should ever know.
I as a child want my mother to get remarried after my father passed. It is healthy and much needed for her emotional, financial, and psychological well being.
Who am I to be selfish and tell my mother that she should be alone? If I was gd forbid in this situation would I want to be alone??
Why are you only thinking about yourself.
You need help and therapy and maybe your mashpia can better explain to you the urgency and need for your mother to be a mother she neeeds a companionship and a new spouse with whom to ahare her life with. Children are important and can't be ignored but her priority is her new spouse.
(5/19/2017 12:13:21 PM)
43
Literally crying
This brought up so many painful memories of my mothers remarriage. I hated my "step father" but I had no choice but to go along with it and pretend to be happy. We were all in our teens when our mother got remarried. The discomfort you describe is accurate, I felt that I could never leave my room. My mother pushed a relationship between us that I felt was beyond inappropriate because of tznius but she always found ways of leaving us alone as you described. Yet everyone was so happy for her.
They as a couple were often invited out to his friends homes for meals while we stayed home. I too stopped keeping shabbos, I preferred to hang out at the library to avoid everything. I rushed myself into getting engaged just to get out of the house.
I can't tell you how many friends whose parents remarried felt abandoned. One friend her father literally took all pictures down of her because the new wife did not want to be reminded of his previous marriage. These are painful memories, besides divorce is tragic enough sometimes remarriage feels like completely being an orphan.

Any marriage struggles but to witness that struggle as a teen with a stranger is very traumatic. It's one thing to see your actual parents fight it's scary to witness that with a stranger.

I sincerely believe that people should not remarry if you have kids older than 9. After that you should wait till your children are adults.
(5/19/2017 12:36:41 PM)
44
Being a teenager is awkward enough
It seems as if a parent remarrying is the most uncomfortable for teenagers as if being a teenager isn't awkward enough. Unless the new stepparent is helpful and takes part of the parenting and financial responsibilities which can make their children's lives better. Otherwise getting married for emotional reasons isn't a great idea, there are people who feel lonely in their marriages too but stay for the kids and people who separate and divorce also for the sake of the kids . in the end its all about the children and the author s feeling are not selfish, you can never judge a situation you haven't been in.
(5/19/2017 1:24:50 PM)
45
Not selfish
Remember kids and teens are emotionally immature. They can not see or understand the value of their parents remarriage on their own. It's a tough situation.....
(5/19/2017 1:29:53 PM)
46
Communication and willingness to work
Everyone in a home needs respect, love, and their needs met. Everyone. And everyone needs honest and effective communication. Not only to be heard, not only to listen, but also to TALK. And while it's best to do it from the beginning, it's never too late to start. I think this letter was important to hear, because it's telling someone's experience of what they (and others) go/have gone through as what you DON'T want to happen. And, it's NOT an automatic thing which happens in all cases; every case is so different. Also remember, there is personal responsibility to be involved with your own happiness. And success in that depends on your effort. Yes, some situations do not succeed, but a good number of them are extremely successful, especially if EVERYONE involved is positive minded and understanding that perfection isn't the goal but using flexibility will help it all. Mashpia and professional guidance is a given. One other point I'll add, is that not everything is easy or rosy for parents when you get re-married. It goes without saying, a whole new marriage relationship needs to grow while still living life and keeping everyone in mind. Children aren't the only ones who wonder if the new addition(s) to the family is liked or welcomed. How to handle discipline, let alone delegation, in the home. Simchas are their own category. The issue was brought up about yichud with the children. How about a wife who now also has to keep in mind yichud with her new step-sons, not being able to sing when she wants, let alone at the Shabbos table, and also being extra careful of her tznius outside of her bedroom. I
(5/19/2017 2:03:09 PM)
47
To the Author
From reading your response, my question is did you ever open up to your mother? if you didn't, you are just at fault.
My parents divorced when I was 9 and I wouldn't have wished it on anyone, however neither parent remarried. My mother was very lonely as was my father, I would never have tried to stop them as I got older. Today many many years later, they are both lonely and alone.
I strongly feel every situation is unique. Please don't let your personal experience influence others.
(5/19/2017 2:29:50 PM)
48
orphan
do you really know what it's like to be an orphan, l'd found my mother at the age of 3, she was no longer alive, my father lost his marbles and abanded us, my sister was 1 year old, the only on who really know what it's like to be an orphan is malka, do you think foster homes were better, l cannot even begin to stress of these children who do grow up the value of a home however mal funation it is, try moving 24 times and being in 16 different schools, perhaps then you'll app what your parents tried to do for you, awhile it's true hashem puts us in difficult situations, we do try to make lemon aid from lemon, a gut shabbos
(5/19/2017 2:49:30 PM)
49
Couldn't agree more
Having had a parent that never remarried. I couldn't be more grateful that they never did marry and we grew up with at least a parent that we knew loved and cared for us more than anyone in the world. I can't imagine where I'd be if they had remarried. And how little if any relationship i would have had with my parent.it's so essential that if you have children you decide that they matter a billion times more than your spouse and make them, because they are, priority over any and everything.

I feel so sorry for the one who wrote this and had such a terrible parent. Hopefully you can be a better parent to your children.
(5/19/2017 3:53:52 PM)
50
#20. So wrong
This is not a 'terrible experience'. My mother remarried. After my father died. I am grown and married. And i resonate with most of this. And yes. Everyone else 'lovessss' how happy my mother is. Some tough guy makes her every decision. And she has to please him. She is always smiling. But my kids lost a bubby and our closeness is done. Reality. Some ppl forget they have children who valued an emotional closeness that is gone post remarrieage.
(5/19/2017 3:56:02 PM)
51
wow
reading this article. so so true. all those accusing the author should be ashamed. This is reality for her and for many. how can u point a finger when u were not ever in her shoes. I know many ppl who experienced this. it hurts.
(5/19/2017 4:22:13 PM)
52
Wicked stepmother
It's no wonder that so many fairy tales feature a wicked stepmother. I am one, who met my stepchild while dating. She attended our wedding. She definitely was displaced and made sure her mother heard about all the injustices.
Therapy helped. Stepfamily literature helped. We learned we had typical stepfamily challenges.
Looking back over the last 15 years I realize now losing a parent to divorce or death is probably a lifelong trauma and having a stepdaughter try her best to sabotage our marriage is the pits. I don't blame her, as she needed help that her parents finally came to provide.
Thank G-d we have a nice relationship now
(5/19/2017 5:06:46 PM)
53
SR Kohn
I must tell you how very accurate this portrayal is.

I wrote a letter to ncn detailing more of my thoughts on this but trust me when I say that if not done properly, I've seen many divorces in second marriages.

I don't think the author is saying never ever remarry. I think she is putting it out there just how many challenges can come up.

I think shadchanim Askanim and even the parent themselves, forget how many layers of complex relationships there are to navigate in a second marriage.

Realism is the foundation to a solid second marriage
Preparation is another foundation
Communication and constant communication amongst all parties

But honestly the best remarriage situations I've seen have been those where there was a really healthy and solid relationship between parent and child. Make sure the remarriage is not coming as a way of solving a problem (e.g., "The boys will behave if there is a father in the house" or " The girls won't be as sad.")

Fix whatever problems are there before you enter into a new relationship. Please.

And get help before dating, during dating, during the engagement and the marriage. I'm talking professional help from someone with a good background on remarriage.

Hatzlocha!

Sarah Rivkah Kohn
Found and Director, Links (for teens who lost a parent)
Wereinittogether.org

(5/19/2017 5:08:22 PM)
54
Rules
!) Parents: don't force or even dream of any relationship. Expect the least and maybe gain the most.
2) Kids- Never interfere in the shalom bayis of your parent (s). Never.
It's said the greatest gift to give children is a stable marriage.
(5/19/2017 6:22:51 PM)
55
This is why I never considered re marriage
I thought about it many times but I had very big concerns about my children, four of whom still lived at home.
Now they all say 'why don't you meet someone ma?'
Now it is not so easy in my early 60's to meet a man.
Just my story...... my kids came first.
(5/20/2017 3:20:05 AM)
56
Interesting
When my father died at a relatively young age, I wanted my mother to remarry. My sister didn't. As it turns out, nearly 25 years later mom is still alone... and lonely.

My sister & I were both married when our father passed away very suddenly. It makes a huge difference I suppose but I felt my sister was very selfish. But for a child, a teenager, watching mom/dad remarry a stranger who enters the home, or uproots the children to a new environment & makes new rules must be a nightmare.

The author definitely makes some important and valid points but at the same time, he has to acknowledge his mother's right to her own happiness. Children move on - they grow up, leave home, start their own families & the single parent remains.... single. I would suggest the "engagement" period is long, that all parties get therapy and meet to discuss expectations etc so that the marriage starts off with bases covered.
(5/20/2017 1:47:10 PM)
57
Agree
this article is amazing! my mother also remarried and i felt that this article is the story of my life. on the one hand i want my mother to be happy. however just like the article said when you have a step-parent thrusted on you who you dont like is difficult.
(5/20/2017 9:19:00 PM)
58
Important
This article has started a very important discussion and brings awareness to an issue many haven't thought about. Just curious - is there anywhere online to read the original article by Rabbi Shusterman?
(5/20/2017 9:24:19 PM)
59
My story... I'm 13 now
My parents divorced when I was 2 and my mom remarried when I was 5. They married 2 months after first meeting. I have to say I love my stepdad - he's really great. I still see my dad a lot, but really enjoy spending time with my step father too.

Interestingly, I have a girl in my class whose parents divorced and mom remarried. Her mom then divorced and she went to live with her stepfather. I'm not sure how it worked regarding tznius, but she liked her stepfather most among all the parents...
(5/20/2017 9:26:22 PM)
60
love this article
Second marriages is painful for the children whose parent died. you the child feel as if you are living at home but its not your home anymore.
Number 10 your wrong the author might need therapy because of all the damage that was caused to her or him
To 35 your child isn’t selfish they just feel the void of loneliness
Remarriages working is very slim. It depends if the new spouse has kids.
42, 45 you are wrong
(5/20/2017 9:33:16 PM)
61
Agree to 56
On point!
(5/20/2017 9:49:07 PM)
62
One serious downside, c"v, to a parent NOT remarrying
My parents split up when I was little, and so I lived with my mother. Somehow my parents' pain (not wanting to see each other even for purposes of the kids seeing their father) combined with the fact that my father was not so strong willed, led to my siblings and I having almost no contact with our father for over ten years.

Then our mother got sick and died! I was still at home (the siblings were out already). I really wish my mother had remarried. I ended up with relatives I hardly knew, who really resented having to be parental figures again since their kids had finally grown up and left home. They took out on me their resentment of the situation, even though of course my mother's death was not my doing!

I honestly feel more traumatized about what it was like to live with them for a few years (until I went away to school), than I was by the earlier split up of my parents!

So, think about this, dear single parent who chooses not to remarry. Chas veshalom this should happen, but sometimes it does: you may not be as immortal as you think, and then your child could end up alone, adrift with no one whatsoever!
(5/20/2017 10:04:16 PM)
63
A look backwards
My parents divorced when I was 2. My father remarried when I was 6, my mother never remarried, saying she I was her primary focus. As I grew up, I did resent the fact that my father remarried and I had a stepmother. While very nice, I felt like I wasn't living at home.

And indeed I wasn't - not at my father's house or my mother's house. My home had been broken, I just wasn't mature enough to realize that. In that sense I had no home.

Now I'm 20. My father has a very nice life. My mother on the other hand - not really. My mom is 48, single, and lonely.

Of course I don't blame myself. But I wish I was there as a kid telling her to get remarried. My father did the right thing and Hashem helped him move on. My mother took a path I think she regrets and I feel sorry for her.
(5/20/2017 10:16:28 PM)
64
Aim habonim smeicha
This is exactly why I am pushing off remarriage. It is bad enough that kids went through divorce, followed by their father's remarriage. My kids need and deserve to have a place they can call HOME, where they feel safe and secure. I will consider remarriage when they establish their own home or move out.
(5/20/2017 11:25:07 PM)
65
POINTS NOT MENTIONED
I have been through a parent's remarriage (after death). Just a few points that I would like to bring up that was not mentioned.

1. FAVORTISM: It is extremely hurtful to the family when a step parent favors his/hers own children. It is something that can be done unintentionally, but needs to be noticed. If you only want your married children for Yom Tov and not your spouse's, that is a problem

2. LACK OF INTEREST: If you visit your step children's homes, even if you have no interest in their families, please pretend. Please try to be polite and enjoy their company while you are there instead of trying to cut the visit short.

3. LOSS OF YOUR OWN PARENT: Sometimes, when a parent remarries after a loss of their spouse, children feel as if they have now lost their only parent. Their parent changes a lot (like anyone who marries anyone). My parent changed so much that I no longer consider them to be the same parent I knew. 
(5/20/2017 11:52:13 PM)
66
Validating
Thank you for articulating the thoughts and feelings of many children and teens with step parents. Some of the stuff you wrote were so true I couldnt help but screenshot! Yes, the parents happiness is vital, but not at the expense of the childrens. No child, (especially an orphan), should ever be made to feel like they dont have a home; which is exactly what happens in many cases. Please refrain from commenting negatively unless you have a personel experience in the matter.
(5/21/2017 12:03:09 AM)
67
When my parents divorced
When my parents divorced, I felt that "home". True, I had my mother's home, and my father's home, but that wasn't home. Home was where my parents and family lived together.

Both my parents remarried and are happy. I'm married too, now, and very happy for them, and happy for myself that I'm not burdened with a lonely parent.
(5/21/2017 2:13:35 AM)
68
At home in both my parents' homes, along with their new spouses
Both my parents remarried after their divorce. They're happy, and we the kids are happy. They've moved on with their lives and we now have 2 happy, loving homes instead of one home with 2 parents at each other's throats.
(5/21/2017 2:20:22 AM)
69
Agree with #44
A parents sole responsibility is their children. It is selfish for a parent to remarry for their own happiness at the expense of their children's security and emotional health. Yes, a parent will become a better parent when they have a spouse to support them. But a child is still forming and growing and needs the security that their parents are there for them and them only. When you have kids, you are putting yourself into a position that requires 100% sacrifice. If having a stranger come into the child's home will destroy the child's faith in the parent, the parent cannot remarry. During a divorce the child need 10 times more attention and TLC than any other child, but actually gets way less love than any other child. The step parent takes away the little attention that the child would be getting in the first place from the biological parent.
(5/21/2017 1:50:14 PM)
70
#69
" growing and needs the security that their parents are there for them and them only. When you have kids, you are putting yourself into a position that requires 100% sacrifice"

Now apply your words to married parents who have strife in their home, are busy with their own pursuits, are not there for their children- are you suggesting they not have children? Are you suggesting they divorce and get their priorities straight?
If there is a death, does that mean the children can never have a 2 adult home?
(5/21/2017 5:34:12 PM)
71
A second time around dater with children
I think it is smart to acknowledge that second mairrages have the potential to go awry as can first ones. The success rate of second mairrages are smaller than first ones due to the many variables and complications involved that are not present by a first marriage. However that does not mean that they cannot be successful if done right. There are instances where children have benefited and formed healthy and positive relationships from step parents. The key is to have two emotionally healthy adults who are able to navigate the sensitive and bumpy journey ahead and engage in family therapy as well. It can be done if done right!
(5/21/2017 10:58:21 PM)
72
Shocked!
At the insensitivity of some comments...to accuse children of being selfish, needing help etc... Please remember these are young children that have the right to their feelings...and parents do need to take that in consideration...every situation is different and the point is that kids needs should come first
(5/22/2017 10:31:21 AM)
73
It's all not simple
I lost my spouse and have kids. I haven't yet remarried. Yet kids AND parent's feelings have to be taken into consideration. Not ONLY the kids! Yes the kids are important but so are the parents! It should be obvious. And no one should ever judge a widow!! Woe is to them!!!
(5/23/2017 12:49:49 AM)
74
No one
Should be judging someone who lost their spouse. You cannot judge until you've been there. Obviously you have to take care of and always take into consideration what's best for the kids but a parent should not have to be alone for many years. it's not ALL about the kids. Everything has to be taken into consideration and every situation is different. And kids can be very selfish apparently even adults are super clueless as to how difficult it is to be a widow! Hashem put it in the Torah to be careful how you treat those in difficult situations. Don't say you know because you don't! Adults too deserve happiness just not at the expense of the kids. Be careful how you judge!!
(5/23/2017 1:02:55 AM)
75
From a frum psychologist Thank you
Finally someone speaks up, finally the children have a voice. This article should bring awareness to everyone.
(5/23/2017 3:18:38 PM)
76
so true
every word true
from experience!
(5/23/2017 3:33:53 PM)
77
An alternative suggestion
When a close relative (divorced) was dating his (current) wife, they went to a therapist for several months before they got married. And the children had many opportunities to get to know her before any public announcement.
(5/23/2017 9:14:28 PM)
78
A parent's first responsibility is to...THEMSELVES
I read your response to Rabbi Schusterman's article on remarriage -- also with interest. I also read what Rabbi Schusterman had to say.

I found your response to be selfish and childish. You would have your mother/father remain single, without a partner, without spousal support (emotional, physical) until YOU were ready to leave the home. You would deny your parent, who may still be of childbearing age, the opportunity to have more children. You would relegate your parent to the lesser position in the family than yourself, the child. You believe children are more important than parents, obviously.

Yes, remarriage is a difficult issue and fraught with many difficulties and obstacles that must be dealt with and overcome. Having a child who is focused solely on their own selfish needs and desires without any thought whatsoever for the welfare of the parent makes this even more difficult. You, a child, have absolutely no idea what it is like to be partnerless in the religious Jewish community. And the older a person becomes, and remains single, the harder is becomes for that person to meet and marry and stay married.

The frum world is not kind to older singles. And a person who remains single for an extended period of time as an adult -- they become a bit more set in their ways, with no other adult around with whom to "share" their ways, thus making it even more difficult for older singles to become older couples.

I am both divorced, and widowed. I was divorced by my first husband, and widowed by my second. I am once again remarried only now, I no longer have children at home to make it more difficult. But...

Had I not remarried after the divorce and had I made my daughter the end-all and be-all of my life -- I would NEVER have ever remarried again. Because, as I mentioned above, the longer one is single, the more difficult it is to find a spouse and remarry. I had and still have no intention of living my entire life out as a single woman. It is very lonely to be single in the frum community.

Yes, remarriage of a parent impacts the child(ren). But if a parent makes a child more important than themselves, what are they teaching their children? Children who grow up learning that they are so important, become adults who ill-treat their parents. They are spoiled. Rotten.

No one "underestimates" the impact of remarriage on children -- but your opinion is that they should not remarry until the children are grown, thereby removing 100% of that impact. That is an "all or nothing" response, and one that underestimates the impact of remaining single on the divorced or bereaved parent.

Imagine being a single parent. It is likely you would have to go to work to earn a living and support yourself and your children. But you have no spousal support. Thus you must manage on a single income. Which might mean no money for someone to do the cooking, shopping, cleaning, laundry, and shlepping. How many children of single parents take on all that? It is my experience, that within the religious Jewish community very few children of single parents help out that much. Are you willing to come from school every day, and cook dinner? Are you willing to do the laundry? Are you willing to do any of the things that need doing to keep the house and home running smoothly? You cannot participate in any extra-curricular activities because you are needed to help your single parent manage life. They, after all, are busy working full time in order to keep a roof over your head, food in your belly, and clothes upon your back.

As for the new person having "parental authority" over you: do you think it would be fair to have an adult come into your home, one who may do all or part of the above and thereby lighten the load upon your biological parent -- would it be fair that they have NO parental authority over all of the children in the home? You could come home, make a mess, leave the mess, do what you want, make demands, eat your meals and leave the table without cleaning up, throw your laundry in the basket for the OTHER parent to deal with -- essentially, you, the child, can do whatever you please, without hindrance, so long as the "other parent" has no parental authority over you?

People are not withdrawing support for the family because it is now "complete" -- they do not withdraw support at all. BUT -- can you imagine a newly married couple who need to find their rhythm, establish their ways of doing things together, and figure out how to make everything work smoothly -- including dealing with selfish teenagers like yourself - constantly being invited out to others for meals? That would prevent the family from learning how to be a new family together. Invitations will still come, albeit fewer than before. Remember too -- your family is a bigger family now - perhaps the other parent has children too. It is difficult to invite a large family over for meals -- it is a lot of work to plan, prepare, cook, and clean for so many people. Have you ever considered doing that yourself? Plan, prepare, cook, and clean for your entire family and another entire family??

You should have been ecstatically happy that your mother was successful in meeting and marrying again. It can be very difficult for that to happen, especially for single adults who still have children at home. Instead you have chosen to wallow in your self-imposed misery about having to learn to deal with other people in your newly reconstructed family.

You think you should have been given a choice. Well, this is a good lesson for you because in real life one often is not given choices. Things happen, opportunities are given to others, and you may not always have your way.

Now, look at it from another perspective: the newly married parent, who is now faced with a new child or children, -- children of another mother or father -- who may still be alive if there was a divorce -- and he/she has to deal with them. Do you have any idea how scary and difficult that is? He/she wants to be, at minimum, respected. But all too often selfish teens like you refuse to respect the non-biological parent and instead they make life as difficult as possible for the new parent. That's hard. It is hurtful. Not only to the new parent -- but also to the biological parent because of course, all this negativity does wind up rebounding and it affects EVERYONE in the family.

Making a new family dynamic work is a two way street. It takes effort -- on the part of the parents AND on the part of the child(ren). You seem not to have bothered with that.

Perhaps there are good ways and bad ways to do this. Perhaps parents make mistakes. But we ALL make mistakes. There are no guidebooks for how to raise children, how to be a parent, and how to make a second marriage with children work. Many self-help books have been written but none are etched in stone absolutely conclusive guidebooks. We all have to make our way as best we can. But it is blind work.

I would agree with you that if and when a parent begins dating he/she should let the children know. No, they do not need to introduce every date to the children. But if and when a relationship is becoming serious, it might be a good idea for the parent to begin "warming the children up" to the news. And little by little bring that person (and his/her children, if any) into their lives. An overnight surprise is not a good idea. But try to understand why a parent might do that: FEAR. Fear that if they tell their children beforehand the children will rebel. Go to the other parent. Make life miserable. So, to avoid the confrontation, and the fear, they make it a "fait accompli". No, it is NOT a good idea.

A parent's first responsibility is to him or herself. If they do not care for themselves, they are teaching their children, that they have no value. And their children will step all over them. Children are important...but never more important than a parent or the couple that makes up the parents.
(5/29/2017 12:20:32 AM)
79
Others have needs too.
Of course it's such a huge change in your life. This man will never be your father. But have you given this man a chance? Maybe he has a lot to offer. He knew your mother had children when he married her so it's likely he planned on including you in his life.
It seems like you have a busy life and it's not just because of your mother's new husband. It is natural for teens to become busy with their own life outside the house. As this process happens, your mother will become less of a focus in your life. That's a huge change for her as well but she doesn't ask you to give up your life so as to keep her life as it was.
The human brain doesn't develop fully until the 20's. Maybe you could take this time to mature and try to understand your mother's needs. You seem solely focused on how all of this affects you. What about her needs, happiness and wellbeing? Have you begin to think of how being alone affects her? Your generation is the most self centered of generation, due to parental overindulgence and helicopter parenting. I find this particularly true in the frum world where even married children who have children of their own are overindulged and have the expectation of entitlement. That is my generation's fault.
Did it ever dawn on you that in time, it will be her husband who helps his aging wife (and vice versa) and it won't be on your shoulders? That is, if you are the type of person to care for your mother if needed.
And no, it wouldn't have been easier if she had waited until you were out of the house. Children with attitudes such as yours don't tend to change. I've seen adult married children with children of their own put their own needs first and not consider a parent's needs. You have not experienced an adult relationship and the need to have one. It almost sounds like you are jealous of not having your mother's full attention whenever you want it.
If this man is horrible or abusive to you, it's a different story. It seems you would benefit from therapy no matter how he treats you. In life you will (hopefully) come to realize that the world does not revolve solely around you. There are others who have needs and desires.
I hope you find a way to not only make the best of this situation but actually come to enjoy it.
(5/30/2017 7:57:05 AM)
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