You have worked hard to help your children adjust to your divorce and have made every effort to cooperate with your ex. The children have adjusted to the situation, and you have moved on. So far, so good. Now, however, you have been seeing someone new, and you are unsure how to handle this new development.
You are probably wondering how and when to introduce this person to the children. Even though the marriage has been over for some time, you understand that this needs to be handled carefully. And there are so few guidelines here.
Each situation is different. However, the one rule that should guide you is to take your time and move slowly. Your children are likely to be somewhat confused. There is a good chance they are still hoping their parents will get back together. And the younger they are, the more uncomfortable they are likely to be with someone new in your life. Regardless of the age, this new person may be seen as a threat to their relationship with you. If they are still feeling traumatized from your divorce, meeting someone new may not be a good idea. Wait until you think they are ready. You have needs, but your children’s needs come first.
Understand Why You Are Dating Your New Partner
Nothing could be more normal than feeling lonely following a divorce. Your entire life has been upended. Understandably, you want to feel good again. It’s important to take time for yourself and heal before you start dating.
So, now you are ready to date! It’s important to keep in mind that while it’s okay to date casually (whatever works for you), it is not okay to expose children to your casual relationships. It will only confuse them.
It is best not to even consider having the new person in your life meet your children until you’ve been dating for several months and the two of you seem to have a future together. Your children need stability, and they will become anxious when they see people move in and out of your life. You are their role model, and casual relationships are not a behavior pattern you want to teach them.
Reassure Your Children
Discuss the situation with your children before they meet your new partner. Introducing your partner as a friend is also okay in the beginning.
It’s important for your children to understand that this new person is not taking the place of the other parent. Reassure them that you have plenty of love for them, as well as this new person. And keep the first meeting casual – perhaps breakfast at a coffee shop.
Your new partner may be great for you. However, ask yourself how he or she fits into the family dynamics. Does he or she have the qualities and temperament to be a trusted stepparent in the future?
Don’t Rush Sleepovers
You may be physically attracted to your new partner and ready to take the relationship to the next level. Be sure your children are prepared for this step. Teenagers especially may be uncomfortable when being confronted with a parent’s sex life. Take your time with having your partner stay overnight, and not immediately after making the introduction. Give the kids enough time to digest and accept the relationship.
Be realistic about how quickly your new relationship will be accepted. It may take a while for your children to accept someone new. Your children may well become close to your new partner. While that makes it easier for you, what will happen if the two of you break up? It will subject the children to another loss and more pain.
Let Trust Develop Slowly
If you are fortunate, your children will happily accept your new partner. But it’s okay if they don’t right away. That too is normal.
Some kids feel threatened and become anxious. They may act up to get more of your attention. It is important that you accept their feelings instead of denying them. Trust is likely to develop slowly, over time. It will develop faster if you don’t rush it, give them the space and time they need.
Your new partner also needs to be respectful if he or she isn’t being accepted immediately. There should be no pressure on the children to accept the new person in your life until they are ready.
Always be Open to Discussions
It might be awkward in the beginning. That’s normal!
Don’t discourage your kids from open communication by avoiding discussions about your new relationship. Always be open to discussion. They will undergo many feelings, some of which will be confusing and even contradictory. Allow them to express themselves. Always keep the door for communication open and encourage them to share their feelings, without forcing your feelings and desires on them. Don’t negate their negative or argue with them on whether their feelings are justified.
Introducing your children to your partner will take patience and time. It is up to you to make them feel as comfortable as possible. Accept their feelings, whatever they may be, and keep reassuring them that they are greatly loved. In the end, feeling safe and loved is what they truly need and want. It will make it easier for them to accept the new person in your life into their life too.
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