"As remarkably resilient as some kids are, for others who are more vulnerable, the disruption of divorce will be a disaster," says Hilfer, and hence parents and other caregivers need to be dedicated to being "child-centric" in the way they handle the transition.
Obviously, the first piece of advice psychologists and psychiatrists would give to parents is to take things slowly, both for their sake and the sake of their children, and not remarry quickly.
"The adults in that situation are vulnerable and prone to making mistakes" immediately following a divorce, Emery says.
But when the time comes for remarriage, one of the most important concerns for the child is to keep as many routines as possible intact and to allow them to maintain important relationships in their lives while gently fostering a new relationship with the new step parent.
"Another issue here is that it's very sad for the child who is very attached to the [former] stepparent to lose them," says Bernet. "When it happens over and over again, it can become difficult and the child soon catches on that they cannot trust people to stick around. They become reluctant to form relationships."
So it would ill-advised to expect the child to be cut off completely from that previous caregiver. It would be just as misguided however, for the new caregiver to expect an instant relationship with child.
"The biological parent needs to be the provider of love and discipline, and the stepparent is better off looking at their role as being an adult friend, at least at first," Emery says. "You think you're going to go in guns blazing and expect instant love and be an instant authority in the child's life, then you are setting everyone up for failure."
And while the child adjusts, the goal of the primary guardian "is to maintain the kid's routines as best they can," Hilfer says.
"You need to give the kid the hope that they'll have some dependability," he says. "The primary parent has to be able to offer that to the kid and all the things that go with that: stable living situation, friendships, school ... emotional and loving support and, probably, plus some therapy."