How to Tell Your Child You're Getting Remarried

Group of smiling stepsiblings

kali9 / Getty Images

Deciding to tie the knot with a new partner after divorce or separation is an exciting, joyful milestone to celebrate. However, if you have children from a previous relationship, sharing your news with them may feel challenging. You might worry about how your kids will react to this big transition, or you may have questions about the best way to have this important conversation.

Letting your children know about your plans in a loving manner can help ease their acceptance of this next step. When done successfully, you can assist them in processing their emotions about the new marriage and the changes it may mean for their home life, says Michael Whitehead, PhD, LMFT, a marriage and family therapist in Twin Falls, Idaho. 

Of course, the approach you take will vary based on many factors, particularly the relationship your children have with you and your partner. Other considerations include the age and maturity of your kids, the details of your past relationship, how long ago you split from their other parent, and whether or not your child has established a good rapport with your fiancé.

Learn more about how to tell your children you plan to tie the knot, including where and when to have the conversation, and how to cope with their reaction, whatever it may be.

When to Tell Your Child About the Engagement

There is no perfect time to tell your child about your plans to get remarried, says Dr. Whitehead. Your specific circumstances and family dynamics need to be taken into account as you decide on the logistics of this conversation. It is ideal to wait until the engagement is confirmed so that kids don’t develop expectations surrounding a step-parent or wedding that might not come to fruition. 

On the other hand, don’t wait so long that the wedding or new marriage is suddenly right around the corner. Springing the news on them might leave them feeling left out, powerless, replaced, or disrespected. It also might upset your kids if they feel like they’re the last to know. Ultimately, it's best to give them enough time to fully process their emotions.

Pick a Time That's Conducive to an Open Dialogue

Be sure to select a time when your child is likely to be able to listen patiently and share their feelings openly, recommends Dr. Whitehead. For most kids, this means that they are fed, well-rested, relaxed, and in a good mood. Also, make sure you have enough time for however long the conversation needs to take. This way, no one feels rushed or pressured to respond without thinking through what they want to say or ask. 

Decide If You'll Tell Your Co-Parent First

Additionally, consider if you’d like to alert your co-parent before telling your kids. This is a courtesy that you may or may not feel is warranted, says Dr. Whitehead. However, you get to decide what feels right to you depending on the type of relationship you have with them. 

Where to Tell Your Children About Your Engagement

It's advisable to choose a private, comfortable space where your child feels safe and at ease. This might be in your home, a counselor’s office, or another neutral place with an environment that lends itself to a serious discussion. It’s also ideal if your child can have a space to retreat if they want to be alone once they hear your news. Often, having this talk in your home works well, because they can go to their room afterward if desired.

Tips for Framing the Conversation

There are many ways parents can tell their children they are getting remarried. Focus your intentions on helping your child cope with your news. What matters is finding a way to share your plans that feels right to you, while also being respectful and open to your child’s questions and feelings.

Let Them Know You Want to Talk Ahead of Time

Before all else, let your child or children know you want to have a sit-down conversation. Communicate that you have something important to share, and then confirm that they are in the right emotional place for the dialogue that's to follow. Double check that they are calm and that their basic needs (such as hunger, going to the bathroom, and tiredness) have been taken care of before you begin. Then, consider turning off all electronics so that you won’t be interrupted.

Keep It Simple and Straightforward

Aim to get right to the point, says Dr. Whitehead. Share your news while using concise, practical language. For example, you might say, “My partner and I have been dating for quite a while and I wanted to let you know that we plan to get married.” If you have other details ironed out, such as a wedding date, location, or where you and your children will live after the marriage, consider communicating those as well. 

Once you say what you need to, be prepared to give space for your child’s feelings and questions. Let them know that whatever emotions they have are normal and accepted—and that you love them no matter how they feel. "Allow them to vent and make sure they feel heard," advises Dr. Whitehead.

Anticipate Their Questions

Try to be ready for the questions your child may ask. For example, they might want to know if they’re getting step-siblings, if you’re planning to have another baby, or if your ex-partner will be invited to the wedding. If you don’t know the answers yet, it’s ok to say so.

"Expect them to be honest and let you know if they need help," says Cora Breuner, M.D., a professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine and an adolescent medicine specialist at Seattle Children’s. While it can be beneficial to be as forthcoming as possible, you don’t need to divulge anything you’re not comfortable with, such as intimate details about your relationship, or anything your child might not developmentally understand. However, if you can anticipate what they may want to know and be ready with answers ahead of time, you can avoid becoming reactive, getting rattled, or telling them things you might regret.

Should Your Future Spouse Be Present?

It’s tricky to decide whether or not to have your future spouse present for this conversation. Often, the answer is no. Some kids are most comfortable hearing this news from their parent alone, as they may feel more open and ready to share their true emotions without your fiancé there. Doing it on your own also puts the focus on your child and lets you tend to their feelings without having to worry about your future spouse’s feelings, too.

However, if your fiancé and child already have a close relationship, then it might be appropriate to include their future step-parent in the conversation. The key is to consider which scenario will feel most welcoming and safe for your child, says Dr. Brenner. If you’re not sure, a compromise is to have an initial private conversation when you share the news, followed by another that includes your future spouse to talk about creating your blended family.

Potential Reactions Your Child May Have

Kids may react to this news in a variety of ways—and they may respond very differently than you expect, says Dr. Whitehead. Naturally, some kids will be thrilled that their parent has found happiness with a new partner, while others may bristle at the idea. Remember that however they feel, it’s important that their emotions be affirmed and taken seriously. Showing your child that you care about how this news affects them will go a long way in helping them accept and process this change.

"Let them know all feelings are valid and welcomed," says Dr. Brenner, adding that parents should also gently guide their children to express their emotions in a productive, respectful manner.

Other Things to Consider

Remember to cut your child some slack. You may be over the moon about your impending marriage, but try not to be offended if your child doesn’t feel the same way. If they are less than thrilled, consider what underlying issues or worries might be at the root of their reaction. Maybe they fear they will lose you or that you’ll love them less. They might worry that you or your future spouse won’t want them around, or they might be sad that you and your former partner are not getting back together.

If your child is having a really hard time with the news, consider counseling, advises Dr. Brenner. A therapist can help your child work through their issues in a safe, supportive way and come to terms with this transition. If you have concerns, be sure to reach out to your child's pediatrician or healthcare provider.

A Word From Verywell

Telling your child you plan to remarry can feel stressful or overwhelming. However, there are ways to make this conservation a bit less intimidating. Namely, do some pre-planning, keep things simple, and put the focus on tending to your child’s emotions.

Then, be sure to give your child the time, compassion, and support they need to process your news and what it means for them. Remember that even if they are truly happy for you, they might also feel a variety of other ways at the same time, and all of those emotions are valid and okay. Let them know you always love them and your new marriage won’t change that—nothing ever will.

3 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Helping families and children deal with divorce and separation.

  2. American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Stepfamilies.

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Communication dos and don'ts.

By Sarah Vanbuskirk
Sarah Vanbuskirk is a writer and editor with 20 years of experience covering parenting, health, wellness, lifestyle, and family-related topics. Her work has been published in numerous magazines, newspapers, and websites, including Activity Connection, Glamour, PDX Parent, Self, TripSavvy, Marie Claire, and TimeOut NY.