Introducing children to a new partner
Introducing your children to a new partner should always be given lots of time and thought. Remember, it is likely that your children will take longer to adjust to the loss of their family than you will given the nature of the relationship. The timescales for this relate to your children and their emotional needs. Awareness and planning are key to dealing with this challenging situation. There are no rights or wrongs about how to do this and its worthwhile keeping in mind the following points:
- Even if you start a new relationship, your children may not be ready to accept that. Keep a new relationship discreet from your children until they are established in a routine of seeing you and their other parent regularly.
- Remember, irrespective of what happens with your new partner, as far as your children are concerned, they have two parents – you and their other parent. They will need lots of reassurance that your new partner does not replace the love and time that you have shared since your separation.
- Be prepared that once your children are aware that you are in a new relationship, they may not be happy about it, and feelings of anger and sadness for the loss of your previous relationship may resurface.
- Discuss the introduction of your new partner to the children with their other parent first. This is beneficial for the children who may want to ask lots of questions to the other parent. It may also be a shock to the other parent if they hear this information from your children first. Respect is of key importance for your co-parenting and you may disagree about appropriate timescales for the introduction of new partners. This issue can be included in your Parenting Plan and can be part of your discussions in Mediation.
- Reassure your children and their other parent that their parent child relationship will always be there and that they will not be replaced.
- Take the integration of step-families slowly and at the pace that seems right for both sets of children.
- Consider family mediation if the details around the blending of families is challenging.
- Encourage children to enjoy their extended family network as it develops. Children often feel guilt at enjoying having a step-family.