There’s a long adjustment period after a divorce, especially if there are children involved. Though you may feel like you’re ready to start dating, not everyone may be on the same page. When your children meet your new love, they might not like each other as much as you had hoped. To prevent this from happening, it helps to think about what your children are experiencing and to approach this major life change carefully.
Why Your Children Might Have Trouble
If your children seem to have trouble accepting a new relationship, keep in mind their feelings may have little to nothing to do with the specific partner. After a divorce or breakup, children face a major shift in their daily lives. Even if the split is beneficial, children still need time to adjust and grieve the loss of what they had before. The children miss having both parents around, and adding a new person adds another level of change into their world. Children can also feel concerned about loyalty between parents and new partners, which adds to discomfort and difficulties, and children can see you finding a new partner as a sure sign you won’t be getting back together with your ex. This realization can bring up the same feelings of fear, anxiety, and anger they had when the split was fresh.
Easing the Relationships
One of the most important things to remember is to avoid forcing relationships too quickly. By introducing your new partner too soon, you run the risk of giving your children a new family configuration to cope with before they have accepted the current situation. Introducing your partner too soon can also create a risk of your children attaching to the new person, which can create more issues in the event of a breakup.
Before introducing your new partner to your children, talk about the partner and describe them to your children. If your children have some idea of who this person is, they’ll feel more prepared for this life change. It’s also a good idea to make sure the relationship between you and the new partner is strong. Waiting to introduce them also allows you time to get to know the partner through different situations before you make any commitments.
When your children and partner are getting to know one another, be sure to keep the process light and casual. Introducing each other at a group barbeque can be a more relaxed environment than a weekend camping trip. Consider attending events at a neutral location, such as a park, instead of at either partner’s home. If your partner also has children, they need to be introduced to your children in another gradual process instead of overwhelming your children with new people.
Be sure to talk with your children about how they feel about new developments. This is a major event, so you will need a few conversations to really process how you and your children can make a happy household. Be careful of interrupting your children or dismissing their feelings —using active listening shows your children that you care about their needs and will help them feel less threatened by a new person in your life. Depending on your children’s ages, they might be more likely to open up during a walk or another activity. Some children might have a hard time opening up, but can show feelings by acting out, withdrawing, slipping in grades, and regressing to past behaviors such as thumb-sucking. Be sure to check in with them to make sure they can identify feelings and that they feel safe when experiencing these feelings. You can also support your children by making sure they still have one-on-one time with you.
As you readjust, don’t be afraid to seek help from others. As you work with your ex to raise your children, make sure you both work to maintain a consistent structure and set of rules between homes. You might also benefit from gaining help and guidance from family and friends. Support systems, from friends to formal support groups, can benefit you and your children as they readjust to new family structures.
Key Ideas to Remember
The main idea to remember is to keep your children’s needs in mind as you find a new partner in your life. You are also a role model for your children as to how they should handle relationships, so kindness and calmness are beneficial for everyone involved. Taking your time to introduce your partner and your children will keep all relationships stronger. Finally, keeping your approach centered on your children’s needs will help them feel cared for, safe, and loved.
Have you ever had to introduce children to a new partner? What if you were the new partner? Are there things you wish you could have done differently?