Being a parent has never been easy. Trying to have conversations with your child about sex, dating, porn etc can be difficult or at times uncomfortable depending on the kind of parent you are. But trickier than that is introducing your child to your new partner.
Many a times this process involves a little bit of guilt, uncertainty and if I may add fear as to how your little one would accept this change.
If you are divorced and back into the dating pool, you might find yourself shrouded with a lot of doubts and uncertainties. Obviously, meeting new people can be very difficult especially when you have a child. There are times when you might just not want to date anyone fearing that your child might not be able to deal with something this complicated because even your child has been separated from one of their parents. Even your child is dealing with grief, anxiety and at times a certain amount of anger.
But that doesn’t mean you need to stop living your life or wait for your child’s approval. Maybe finding a new partner (the right one; but one can never be sure) might help you and your child lead a better life in the long term. Hence, introducing your child to your new partner slowly and giving them their time to accept the fact and your partner, is the key.
If you have been in an abusive marriage and your child has witnessed the same, then there is a slight chance that the whole situation could be slightly easier; obviously there could still be a certain amount of apprehension.
Here are some ways which might help you introducing your child to your new partner:
First, be sure what type of partner you want to introduce.
I am saying this because dating all over again can be tricky. You might date a number of people before you end up with someone who is more serious and keener to have a long-term relationship with you and your child. Try to avoid introducing a short-term relationship or a fling to your child. This will do them no good. It might just confuse them further.
It is important that your child understands or accepts the fact that you are single. They need time to adjust to the fact that their relationship with the other parent is over or will be different from what it has been all this while. Your child might meet the other parent depending on what ground rules have been established during the divorce. This separation is already quite disruptive for the child. You, as a parent, need to understand that.
Remember that if your new relationship is going to be a long-term one, then your child might take a bit longer to trust them. It is natural. Also, before the introductions, do talk to your partner about your child, the moods, likes, and the current state of your child’s mind. Make sure that your partner fully understands and is aware of what he/she is getting into.
Things to keep in mind before the first meeting or Preparing for the first meeting.
Here, obviously you have spoken to your new partner. Now it is time you talk to your child. Tell them about your how you have made a “new friend” and that you share a lot in common with this “new friend”. Share something funny or something interesting that your child could relate to. Observe their reaction. Then ask them whether he/she would like to meet your new friend. If you prepare them before hand, they will warm up to the idea of meeting your new friend.
If the other parent is also involved in your child’s life, make sure that he/she too is kept in the loop. It is always better than them finding out from someone else. This could prevent accusations etc.
The First Meeting
Keep it casual. It is important to opt for a progressive approach. Don’t make it a formal thing where you ask your child to behave in a certain manner or be at their best behaviour. Make sure that both parties aren’t under any stress. You could pick up some fun activity or a casual outing. You could also have a small gathering with your close friends who your child is familiar with. You can invite your new partner to the gathering, and this could make introducing your new partner to your child amazingly easy and comfortable. In such an environment, your child will see this new person as your friend just like the others and might readily warm up to your new partner.
Explaining the situation.
Children are smart and sensitive. They can easily pick-up cues. If they have got an idea of what’s happening, then observe their reaction. If they don’t seem so happy, take it slow with your partner. If they are receptive about the situation, then make sure that you explain to them that this new person isn’t a replacement for the “other parent”. Tell them that the new person isn’t their “new father” or “new mother”. If you see that your child can have fun with your new partner, then most likely they will accept your partner as a new parent.
However, I would like to add that introducing your child to your new partner can also end up being a painful experience for your child, especially if they still hope that their parents might reconcile. This could make them look at your new partner as a “rival”; and that could cause a lot of stress at home. This is where you need to be patient. You might be in love, but you need to show and prove to your child that there is a lot of love to go around, especially for them. Give them lots of reassurance. Ask for their opinion; what they like about your new partner or what is it that they dislike. This will give them a sense of importance and they would feel that they too are a part of this process. Work with all of this and establish a common ground.
Time to deal with you Ex.
This totally depends upon your present equation with your ex. The fact is that your ex is also your child’s parent.
If you both are cordial, then it can be a good idea that you get your ex and your new partner to meet, not in front of your kids though. If you find that your ex is supportive about your new relationship, then it could make things easier when you are introducing your new partner to your child. It might also help improve the relationship between your partner and your child.
However, if the separation was bitter then informing them should be good enough.
What to expect and accept.
Your child might not be too happy about this “new person” in their life. Many a times they might simply hate this person because they might feel that this new person might take you away from them. Your child might have a tough time accepting this new person and might also wish that things could go back to the way they were. This is quite normal. Do not reprimand them or lash out at them. Reassure them that you as a parent will always put them first before anything else. Your love for them will never change irrespective of the changes happening in the present.
Time to invite your partner home.
If at all you have managed to get them to meet in a casual way or in a gathering, it is now time that you invite your partner home. This is a profoundly serious step. Because now the new person in your child’s life is entering his/her territory. If all your earlier efforts seem to work, then this part might not be that stressful.
Make sure that your new partner and your child are comfortable. Have dinner together but try not having your partner stay back or sleep over. Make sure to let your child know that your partner is coming to meet you all.
You might observe that your child is either silent and indifferent or he/she is showing some amount of warmth towards your new partner. If it is the latter, then its half the battle won.
Have a couple of these dinners where your partner spends equal and quality time with your child. And if that goes well then…
Sleeping Over and Moving in.
Once you are sure that that the relationship between your child and partner is well established, you could get into this phase. But there might be a few things you might want to consider.
If your child is old enough then it is obvious, they know why the both of you are sleeping in the same room. But if they are young, then tread carefully. Explain things to them in a manner they would understand. Be considerate towards their reactions and respect them.
Once that is done, establish some rules like changing with the doors closed. If possible, make sure that your child and your partner use separate bathrooms. This is mostly for your child to feel safe and for them to know that their space isn’t being invaded in any manner.
And when it comes to moving in then it is time to discuss parenting responsibilities. You need to make your partner understand about how to handle ‘discipline’ issues because obviously your partner doesn’t know your child that well, yet. If your child is not too young, then it is fully possible that they are bound to resist whatever your partner has to say. Make sure that you and your partner are on the same page.
I would like to end this article by saying that -do not expect any miracles. Starting a new life with a stranger can be quite difficult and stressful for your child, especially the older ones. This stress could also spill over or affect your relationship with your partner as well. Be patient. Take it slow. The trust and bond will develop over time. While you are taking care of your child’s and your partner’s emotions, don’t also forget to take care of yourself. Don’t get frustrated or stressed.
If life has given you a second chance, consider yourself lucky and take it slow and steady.