Making the decision to introduce a new partner to your children can be difficult. You may have a concern about upsetting your kids, worry about your ex-partner’s reaction or the impact on your new relationship. All of these are common and natural concerns.
It can be difficult to gauge the right approach to take, but with a little preparation and mindfulness of how this news will impact on your children, you can help to ensure a smoother transition for all.
First steps to introducing your partner to your children
The first step is to give serious consideration to your relationship. How serious is it? Do you picture your future together? Does your partner have an interest in being a part of your children’s lives? Will they have a positive impact on your children’s lives?
If there is a willingness on both sides to meet the children, the next step is to have a conversation about what role your partner would like to play. Understanding this will help set out realistic expectations before any conversations with the children start.
Whatever age your children they are likely to have some mixed feelings about the introduction of a new partner. The best thing you can do is prepare them and give them some feeling of control over the situation. Having some element of control (even just perceived control) helps all of us to deal with potentially upsetting situations in a better way.
Tips to help when introducing a new partner to your children
Talk to and listen to your children
Before they meet, sit and down and talk to your children and explain the situation. And then listen to their responses and give them time to talk. Validate and understand their feelings and concerns. Make sure you reassure them how much you love them and that your relationship will not change.
The right time
There is no perfect time. The best measure is when you are in a happy, stable relationship and you can see a future together. Adults arriving and quickly leaving children can affect their ability to form long-lasting relationships in the future.
Take it steady
You may be in love with your new partner, but children will need time to adapt. They may feel threatened, confused or frightened of losing you. So take it steady and at the beginning, keep it casual.
Pick an activity at a place away from the home so it is neutral territory and you can all be involved. Make it age-appropriate: a bike ride, lunch out, bowling or a walk. You know your children and what activity works for them. Keep it short and fun.
Getting together again
For the next few get-togethers, apply the same rules to the first. Making sure that everyone is comfortable before an invitation to the home will help the children adapt. Get them involved in a meal ( age-dependable) and reinforce that your partner is coming to see everyone, not just you.
Sleeping over will require some important considerations. Make sure you establish clear rules about your partner’s involvement with the children and behaviour within the home.
Time with the kids
Don’t let your partner consume all your time. Make time for plenty of one-to-one time with your children. During transition and change, children need you more not less. If your child does act up, try not to get angry. It usually means they are trying to tell you something.
Build-in plenty of time for time together, respect their feelings and give them the space they need to form a relationship with your partner.
Children are very intuitive and there may be a world of emotions in their head that they do not vocalise so stay presence, consistent and honest with them. Show them that they are still your main priority.
Introducing a new partner to your children can bring its difficulties. Children may be resistance to a new partner and feel guilty towards the other parent. Remember, your new partner is not a replacement parent but as your partner can, with time, build a positive, trusting and even influential relationship with your children.