Saturday, September 20, 2008

Introducing a New Partner to Your Children

One of the most stressful things you can do as a separated father is to introduce your children to your new partner. You want everyone to like and accept everyone else – and you’re really not sure what you’ll do if that doesn’t happen. There are no guarantees of course, but there are a number of things you can do to try and ensure everything goes smoothly. That’s especially important for your children, who won’t understand a lot of the dynamics, and who after all, are the most important things to you.

What Type Of Partner Should You Introduce?

The chances are you’ll date a number of people before finding a serious relationship. Don’t introduce your kids to every passing girlfriend. It will only confuse and frustrate them, and when you want them to meet someone with whom you’re developing a serious relationship, it’ll take them longer to trust her.

It’s best to wait until you have a committed relationship with someone before introducing your children into the equation. Give things time to reach stability, where you’re comfortable with each other. Talk to her about your children beforehand, by all means, but try to avoid discussing your former partner.

One thing you have to do, as the relationship develops, is make sure you still give plenty of time to your children, all the time you can. It’s easy to become distracted in a new, major relationship, but don’t do it at the expense of your kids.

The First Meeting

The first meeting between your children and new partner should be a casual, social occasion – say a trip to the park or the cinema. It certainly shouldn’t be anything that involves stress; don’t go to an amusement park, for example, where you might spend a long time queuing for rides with the children becoming restless. You want everyone relaxed. Introduce your partner as a friend, make light of it. Don’t kiss her and hold her, keep everything light, and include everyone in the conversation. After a while, slip away for a few minutes so your partner can briefly interact with the children on her own. However, keep time for yourself alone with the kids during the visit, too, just as you normally would.

Moving On

You don’t need to have your partner with you every time you have your children; in fact, it’s a bad idea. They need time alone with you. But do have her join you regularly. For a while keep it as light as possible, still introducing her as a friend. In time, sit down with your children and explain about your relationship – obviously in terms they’ll understand, depending on age. Remember, their reaction is important. Hopefully, by the time you do tell them, they’ll have developed their own relationship with your new partner and accept her readily.

If you and your new partner decide to move in together, make your children a part of the process. If you’re renting or buying a new place, let them make the decisions about decorating rooms that will be theirs – it gives them a stake in both the place and the relationship.

If the relationship allows, discuss the move with your ex. She’ll hear about it anyway from the children, but it would probably be best if you told her first, if only as a courtesy to prepare her.

Problems

Obviously, you can’t force your children to get along with your new partner. What happens if they don’t? Then you’re left between a rock and a hard place, and there’s no easy resolution. It’s quite possible you’ll have to make a choice between partner and children (and the same applies if your partner doesn’t like your children). Remember, however, that your children are with you for life. Your responsibility to them will never end, and taking you on means taking them on, too – you’re a package deal. At that point you’re left with a painful decision to make, and whichever way you go, someone is going to be hurt. The best thing to do is everything in your power to make sure things go well. Don’t rush anything – there’s plenty of time.

If You Leave For Someone Else

The situation is a little different if you’ve left to be with another woman. Your ex will have told the children, and you should have sat down with them to explain it, too. However, that doesn’t mean you need to introduce her immediately. Take time alone with your kids when you’re with them, and introduce her gradually, as you might with any relationship. Avoid introducing her immediately as the new stepmother; between fairytales and stories, step parents have bad reputations. Give them a chance to become used to her – and vice versa.

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