I am engaged and pregnant. I have two kids at home and my fiancé has two that are grown. How soon should we get married and how soon should our kids be told?
Engaged and Pregnant
Dear Engaged and Pregnant,
Congratulations on both your engagement and your pregnancy. With both of these exciting pending events, you have your hands full. It sounds as though you are concerned about your kids and how your upcoming marriage will impact them.
The first part of your question, "How soon should we get married?" depends on many factors. Marriage is a holy covenant and a lifetime commitment. Are you ready? Psychologists often recommend counseling before marriage. Although discussions about finances and parenting are an important part of this, more crucial is the work you and your fiancé can do in strengthening your conflict resolution skills and building emotional skills. Attend pre-marital counseling and focus on growing in empathy, self-awareness and emotion management. If you have done the work to prepare for a healthy marriage, getting married sooner than later may be a good choice.
In regard to your question about telling the kids, it's best they are told once they have developed a relationship with your partner. You don't want to spring an engagement on them with a man they've never met! Your fiancé should spend time with the family in special times and in mundane times (i.e.: during Saturday chores and for the trip to the amusement park). But your fiancé shouldn't attempt to take on a disciplinary role. Instead, he should focus on building a bond. Once this has been in process for some time, the two of you can sit down with the kids and give them the good news. Keep in mind, they won't always celebrate with you. Kids may not be ready to welcome a new parent into the home and often need time to adjust to the idea and the changes that will come with it. Depending on their ages, this adjustment and the development of trust with your fiancé could take quite a long time. Have patience and work with your fiancé to continue to connect with each child on an individual level (getting to know their needs and love languages).
Finally, be aware that your children may have unexpected reactions to your pregnancy once they learn about the impending marriage. They may ask themselves questions like: Will my mom still love me now that she has a new baby and new husband? Do I still matter? Is this man trying to steal my family? Children may not verbalize thoughts like these but you can recognize their uncertainty and confusion by changes in behavior. For example, there may be unexpected acting out at home and school or withdrawal from interaction with family and friends. The key to helping your children accept the new relationship and the new baby? Patience, flexibility, and love.
Christopher Grace serves as the director of the Biola University Center for Marriage and Relationships and teaches psychology at Rosemead School of Psychology. He and his wife, Alisa, speak regularly to married couples, churches, singles and college students on the topic of relationships, dating and marriage. Grace earned his M.S. and Ph.D. in experimental social psychology from Colorado State University.