A NEW HUSBAND brings support and stability to a family. Unfortunately, the woman’s children often feel left out of the decision-making process and may resent this new person getting the attention that they felt was theirs. A balance needs to be struck that will make the transition from single parent to a two-parent unit a productive and pleasant event.
Remarrying is an undertaking that needs careful planning and mature judgment skills on the part of both the man and the woman involved. Yet, for the woman, it carries an additional aspect that many men do not encounter. Most women bring their children into a new relationship, and therefore nurturing an understanding between her prospective mate and her children can often be a challenge. Once the questions have been raised and dealt with as to the function of this new family unit, there is a need to define roles for husband and wife as well as the children. Setting the stage for outlining each participant’s role and responsibility and putting together a plan establishes goals for this new relationship that, insha’Allah, will nurture love and respect on both sides.
Fathering the Young Child
Any time children realize that a parent is leaving the home for good they are not going to be happy. The attachment that was developed between children and their father is threatened and the fear that the love they had will end can be unsettling for them. If divorce is the reason, the parent that is leaving must reassure his children that he will always be in their life and that he will make every effort to see them as much as possible. The concept of divorce should be explained as much as possible on their level with the kindest of words and actions. Whatever hard feelings exist between the two, parents should be transparent to the child. In the beginning, the child will be upset but kindness will help them recover. Many children hold on to the hope that their parents will kiss and make up. But, when a new person moves into their home and takes the place of their father, their sad feelings may resurface, so both parents must keep the line of communication open on both sides in order for the children to feel comfortable and secure with the new situation. The role of the stepfather should be as supporter and provider for the mother with suggestions on how to handle conflicts or a difficult child. It is not suggested that a stepfather begin relationships with stepchildren by using physical discipline to deal with misbehavior. Discipline should primarily be left up to the mother with her new husband providing supportive ideas. There should always be the reminder that these children have a father whom they love and respect, and that the new father is there as a partner for their mother. Working to build a bond between the two parties can be developed around many activities that young children enjoy. Walks in the park and vacations together as a family can go a long way to win their hearts. Incorporating the the children into the family prayer time and teaching them new surahs (Quran chapters) establishes a familiarity with common ideas and reinforces the Islamic identity which has been a part of their life as a family.
Teenagers and Rebellion
Call them by (the names of) their fathers; that is more just in the sight of Allah. But if you do not know their fathers – then they are (still) your brothers in religion and those entrusted to you. And there is no blame upon you for that in which you have erred but (only for) what your hearts intended. And ever is Allah Forgiving and Merciful. [Surat Al-Ahzab, 33:5]
Historically this verse refers to the Prophet and his adoption of Zaid ibn Thabit. Zaid was gifted to the Prophet as a slave. The Prophet set Zaid free and adopted him as his son. He was thereafter called Zaid ibn Muhammad and became the first of the freed slaves to accept Islam.
Adoption, as we know it in the Western world, is incompatible with the Islamic ethical system because of the rights of lineage. When a man marries a woman with teenage children, he does not adopt them but takes on the task of assisting his wife in their upbringing. He should be viewed as their brother in the faith with the respect due to someone who is older than them. Sa’eed ibn Al-‘As reported that the Prophet said, “The right of the elder brother over the younger is the same as the father over the son.” (Baihaqi). Unfortunately, on too many occasions, the stepfather is faced with conflict and resentment. Most of the time male teenagers are the staunchest defenders of their birth right. The reminder that “you are not my father” sets the stage for confrontation. But, it doesn’t always have to produce negative results. The forgoing Qur’anic (Surat Al-Ahzab, 33:5) verse reminds the stepfather that these children that he has been placed in charge of have a natural lineage which cannot be ignored. It also informs the stepchild that Islamically they are brothers in faith and they should render unto the older one the rights due to him. The above hadith makes that clear. He must garner respect from them if he is to have authority in his home.
The older the children, the harder it is to break through the disappointment they may feel due to the collapse of the family they had before divorce. What the stepfather must endeavor to do is demonstrate to them in word, as well as deed, that he respects their stance but he also expects their respect.
Concept of Marriage
Older children need to be made aware of the beauty of marriage and its purpose in the life of a Muslim. Allah tells us in Quran, “And of His Signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. Indeed, in that are signs for people who give thought.” [Surat Al-Rum, 30:21]. Teenagers must learn that tranquility is promised by Allah when marriages are based on sound Islamic principles. Assuredly, there will be differences, but when Islam is the basis for solving conflicts and building relationships, the soul as well as the home environment, will reflect peace and harmony. Setting examples and being true to ones’ word are the best teaching tools for teenagers.
Children should be happy for their mother when she finds someone who will bring ease to her life as well as theirs. “It is He who created you from one soul and created from it its mate that he might dwell in security with her.” [Surat Al-A‘raf, 7:189].
In the end, only a strong foundation based on Islam will see new relationships through tough times, whether it is working through discords that may occur between the newly married couple or making the children involved comfortable with the new addition to their lives. No matter which position we take, remembrance of Allah and attaining His pleasure will gain many rewards in this life and the next. We must continue to be a guide to Islam for our children so that they, insha’Allah, be our ticket to Paradise.