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stepparent boundaries

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Getting to a place where one is emotionally ready to date, and perhaps marry, again after a divorce is never easy. Many say that a divorce feels like a death, and you have to grieve that part of your life before moving onto the next. However, there is one group who may argue that divorce is not like a death, and that would be those who’ve lost a spouse to actual death. With divorce, sometimes the decision to split is at least mutual, and there may have been plenty of time leading up to the official divorce proceedings during which each person could process the change. But having a spouse pass away is, unlike divorce, never a choice. It’s a complete shock. It’s unfair. With divorce, you can say that love story just played out, but with death, the story didn’t get a chance to play out. For this reason, deciding to date or remarry after losing a spouse in that way is never easy, but, research has found that it is somewhat common. It is more common for men than women to remarry after the death of a spouse, but both groups do participate in second marriages, after being widowed.


As if the transition for the individual who is widowed to become romantically involved with someone new isn’t complex enough, when you add a child to the equation, it is even more layered. You’re adding all of the complications of introducing a new parent figure into a child’s life, but this time, to a child whose biological parent died. It’s very fragile and can lead the new stepparent feeling a bit lost on their place in it all. We spoke with licensed counselor and founder of Profound Counseling Crystal Moore on how one can navigate these sensitive waters.


Crystal Moore-Hallman LCMHC

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Discipline and boundaries

While two biological parents may feel they have full power to oversee and dictate the disciplining of a child, when a stepparent comes into place – especially at a sensitive time, like after the loss of a biological parent – boundaries surrounding discipline can be messy and need to be cleared up. It’s important that the stepparent knows when it’s appropriate to step in, or stay out of it. Moore says, “It is important for the step-parent and biological parent to discuss boundaries. One boundary to consider is discipline. It is important for the step-parent to allow the biological parent to take the lead in disciplining the children or child.”

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