When you have children, you and your ex-spouse will be intertwined one way or another likely for the rest of your lives. Your former spouse or partner will likely move on to a new relationship and so will you. There are many things that can be tough already, but when your children are involved, it can be a whole next level of difficult to handle. You will need to navigate not only your emotions but also your children’s questions, emotions, and expectations. This is a road most people have to travel post-divorce.
Remember, experiences can differ. If you talk to others who have walked this path you may hear about everything from stories of extremely successful blended families to long-term rifts and rejection within families. When it comes to introducing a new partner to your children, there is no perfect recipe to success, but you can take steps to try and improve the chances of a smooth ride. The following are some tips to help you as you get started on this new journey.
Wait until the relationship is stable and you are sure
You had a marriage fail and you know all too well that relationships do not always work out. You cannot get a guarantee the new relationship will go the distance, of course, but you can be sure whether you think it has long-term potential and not introduce someone who doesn’t have that potential.
A revolving door of new partners can be very hard for a child to understand and undermines the stability children need post-divorce. Children feel safest when they know what their world will look like. Introducing a new partner to your children can be a very good thing but wait until you are sure that this person will be around for the long haul.
Talk to your co-parent in advance.
You may think that the other parent does not need to know. They will know if your child does, and they should not hear it from them first! You and the other parent should present a positive front together on addressing the new relationship with your kids. Your children will have questions when they go back to the other parent’s home. They may be wanting to make sure you are okay with it, and they are not somehow hurting you by liking a new partner.
It will help if you tell your co-parent in advance that the introduction will take place. Give the other parent time to adjust if this will be hard for them to hear and reiterate the desire to message this positively to your children. If they have questions, answer them. Keep the conversation to issues related to the children and have the discussions that need to be had to set your children up for the best situation possible.
Have alone time with your child and ease in
It is best to have the first meeting be short and bring your new partner around more as time goes on. Take the time to integrate them into your child’s life but it should not mean that you do not spend one on one time with your child, too. Your children will need to know they are a priority for you and not overshadowed by your new partner. If you only have your children on weekends or part-time, it is even more critical to make alone time a priority since time together is at a premium.
Listen to your children’s feedback and feelings
You cannot expect your child to like or love your new partner from day one. It will take time for your new family unit to develop a bond. Starting your own new traditions can help. Friday movie night, Sunday brunch and things like this you can all do together are great.
Ask your child during alone time how they feel, listen to their feelings without r judgment, and create a safe space for them to share with just you. Make sure your children know that they are priority ones for you and that your new partner cares about them, too, but you know it may take time to get used to having them in their lives.
Patience is critical when you introduce a new partner. Patience for you, your partner, your children, and also the other parent/ex-partner. Have grace with everyone involved and communicate! Newly blended families can be amazing in the benefit they bring to a child’s life.