Introducing Your New Partner To Your Children
Beginning a new relationship with someone is a special and anxious time. On the one hand, you are experiencing so many positive experiences and times with someone you really enjoy spending time with. On the other hand, it is a time of great change and as with all matters of the heart, there is a lot at stake when you find yourself feeling vulnerable. Things become a lot more complex when you have children to consider.
Stepping into the dating game is daunting all by itself when you have children. You have the logistics of babysitting, the feeling of “sneaking around” to protect your children emotionally and then big decisions to make when you do meet someone that you develop feelings for. When you have children there is so much more to consider when you begin a relationship.
Does the other person have children? If so, what is their lifestyle like and is it a lifestyle you are comfortable with? If they do not have children are they willing to be warm and kind to your children? What if they adopt the role as another parent and this is something you want to avoid? Are they willing to be flexible with your time limitations and the fact that your children will always be your priority? It is a minefield.
In truth, there are so many parents who successfully go on to meet a new partner after the relationship with their children’s other parent has come to an end. When things are going well and they feel confident in the status and future of the relationship the next step may be to introduce their new partner to their children. This is a very daunting experience for so many different reasons.
It is important to only introduce your children to someone that you see a real future with rather than every person you date. When you feel comfortable about the possibility of introducing them to the new partner you could speak to them in advance about the fact that you have met someone who is going to be a part of your life and that you look forward to introducing them to this person very soon. This will plant the seed rather than it being an overwhelming surprise.
Children can often resent change and older children may fear a new partner is trying to take their parent away or replace their other parent. The initial reaction is likely to be a complex mixture of emotions and not necessarily a very positive one. You are really excited and in turn, will want your children to feel the same but this may not be the case.
If your children speak negatively about the new partner or speak about wishing things were as they used to try to be an understanding compassionate parent. Validate and listen to how they are feeling and reassure them that you will always be their parent and will always love and care for them as much as you always have. It might also be an idea to prepare your new partner for this kind of reaction from the children so that they do not get an unexpected surprise if it pans out that way.
For the first meeting, an activity outside of the home is recommended. Having it outside the home means that the children will not feel as though their home is being threatened by a new person. Something fun and light-hearted like a picnic or walk in the park could work really well. Keep it short and sweet and don’t forget to debrief with the children afterwards to see how they are feeling. Remember to be calm and to validate their feelings and fears.
For the next couple of meetings keep it light, fun and in a neutral place. The idea is that with time the children will hopefully build trust, feel more comfortable and recognise the positives that you see in your partner.
Tracey is a happy mammy to four-year-old Billy. She is a breastfeeder, gentle parent and has recently lost five stone so healthy family eating is her passion! You can find her at www.loveofliving.ie.