Introducing New Partners to Your Kids
Whilst you may have been consumed by the many different emotions you will have no doubt experienced when you were going through a divorce, your child or children will have been affected by the divorce also. They may be feeling insecure and vulnerable, they might be confused as to why you have split up, they may be angry at the person who’s made the decision to separate. In fact, their feelings can quite often be as mixed-up as their parents’ emotions at this time. Therefore, when you have found a new partner and are experiencing happy times again, you have to remember that it’s you who is experiencing joy again, not your children. Yes, they may be happy to see you smiling again but a ‘new person’ coming into their lives may not be as welcomed as you might have hoped.
Putting Your Children FirstWhen we fall in love, it’s often impossible to think about anything else but it’s crucial that you still put your children first, even if you think you have found a new partner whom you feel serious about. The extent to how much effort you’ll have to put in and what you’ll have to do to put your children first will vary on the ages of the children involved, their personalities and their attitudes and relationship with both you and their other parent and towards the divorce itself.
Talking openly to them about their feelings and any fears they have can often reassure them that life is going to be OK. Telling them that you need their love and how important they are in your life is something you should constantly remind them. The more their confidence is rebuilt, the more open they might become towards accepting your new partner into their lives.
Problems You May EncounterChildren may start to feel jealous if you are spending a lot of time with your new partner at times when they are usually the sole focus of your attention. Initially, you should ensure that you never compromise on the ‘special’ time that you set aside with your children and to make that time meaningful. Try to slowly incorporate the fact that you have a new ‘friend’ into your conversations with your kids. The fact that they have to acknowledge the existence of somebody new in your life, whether they like that or not, will slowly sink in and an eventual acceptance of that should result but never put your new love above them in terms of their affections. You can simply tell them that you need grown-up company too but they will always be ‘Number 1.’
They may also be hoping that there might be some kind of reconciliation with your ex. It’s important that you tell them that this won’t happen but do so gently and never malign your ex to your children. Even if you loathe your ex with a passion, try to keep your comments to your children about them positive or, at least, don’t criticise them. They are, after all, a Mum or a Dad to the children no matter what has caused you to split up. If you’re negative towards your ex, it could cause your kids to resent you and almost certainly resent anybody you might choose to get involved with subsequently.
Take it SlowlyOnce you have decided that now is the time to introduce your new partner to your children, take it slowly. Arranging a fun day out on ‘neutral territory’ is often the best way to get them acquainted. The fact that it is on neutral ground and doing an activity that kids would usually enjoy will lessen the tension and help to break down defences. It needn’t be a whole day out at first, even a trip to the local pond to feed the ducks or an evening ten-pin bowling is a good way for them to get to know each other. Asking your kids what they’d like to do is often a good place to start.
Don’t expect too much too soon. Whilst you might think that everyone should get on great seeing that you love both your kids and your new partner, remember that both sides may feel nervous, unsure, threatened or jealous so it’s all about taking small steps and having open conversations with both your children and your partner separately after each meeting to talk about how they feel about things so you can get to understand their feelings and plan for future meetings. Remember, your expectations and hopes are likely to be different to those of your children at least initially, so don’t rush things.
Good communication, patience, understanding and some give and take on all sides as well as that vital commodity…time, is often all that you need to ensure that your new partner becomes a part of both your own and your children’s life in whatever form that may take, but allow some time before you make the introductions and be as sure as you can be that your feelings towards this new partner are serious as your kids will be less inclined to even want to know in the future, if you’re doing this regularly with different partners.