Divorce is difficult for all members of the family. However, children are often the most vulnerable to the uncertainty and fear caused by a divorce. Children love both parents. The concept of a split family is not something they understand easily. As time goes on, the adults usually meet new partners, which adds to their confusion and fear.
How and when you introduce a new partner to your children is a hurdle you will cross. It may feel awkward and uncomfortable, but if handled correctly, it will allow your child and your family to move forward. This will show them that they need not fear the future and they will always be loved and secure in their home.
Who do you introduce the children to?
This is sometimes a problem. In the spirit of honesty, parents sometimes tell their children too much. If you have just met someone and you are going for coffee or dinner, there is no need to introduce that person to your child. This is a casual occurrence, and you do not know if the two of you will even become good friends, much less a couple. To a child who is experiencing a family crisis, everyone is a potential threat. Can you imagine the confusion they will experience when they are introduced to multiple people at random times?
It is perfectly normal for an adult to seek companionship after a breakup. That will usually include friendship and eventually a more serious relationship. It is not a good idea to hide the fact that you are spending time with adult friends from your children. However, it is a good idea to move slowly. Even if you and your new companion seem to have something special, things change. You may have several relationships before you meet someone who wants to have a future with you and your children.
Do not introduce your children to your new companion unless you are both interested in a long-term relationship. Once you establish a committed relationship, you may introduce your new partner to your children. It is important for them to have a bond with this person. Your children may need time to get to know them and to learn to trust them. Take time to listen to their questions and give them honest answers, but use your discretion. Above all, never tell them anything that is not true, especially about your former spouse. Making a defamatory statement about your ex-husband or ex-wife might make you feel better at the time, but lying to friends, relatives, and your children can affect your relationships, future marriages, and employment opportunities after a divorce.
Consider the age of the children
Each age group has their own challenges when it comes to meeting new adult partners.
- Younger children (up to the age of 10-years old)
- Possessive of their parent
- Feel threatened
- Have delays in trusting
- Pre-teens and teenagers
- More accepting of the relationship
- Often refuses to accept any form of instruction from new partner
- Feel a responsibility to protect their parent and siblings
What Not To Do
- Do not introduce your child to multiple partners
- Do not ignore their feelings or tell them they are unimportant
- Do not rush the children since trust takes time
- Do not include your new partner in everything you do
- Do not neglect your children and put your own needs first
- Do not put responsibilities on your child that are not theirs to carry
Children almost always want their parents to reunite. The introduction of a new partner may kill that dream. Your child needs time to grieve the loss of the marriage and the loss of the family dynamict hey once knew. Do not pressure your new partner to act like your child’s parent or force strangers to interact with them. Children resent being parented by a non-parent. Keep communication open and honest and do not unite as a force against the child. In most cases, children will adjust with time. It is important that you allow them the time they need.
About the author:
Wail Sarieh advocates for the families he represents. He is very active in the community and considers his civic duties seriously. Mr. Sarieh is a sponsor of Birmingham, Alabama’s Wall of Tolerance, and he is a Member of the Southern Poverty Law Center. He also volunteers in Santa Monica at the Heartfelt Foundation.