Separation is difficult. Separation when there are children involved is incredibly difficult because parents have precious little lives and feelings to manage and consider.
One of the challenges as a separated parent is likely to present itself when you re-partner. It is challenging for you, sometimes challenging for your former partner and can be challenging for your kids. It is wonderful when separated parents are able to connect with someone new and start a new phase of their lives, however when you have kids, you need to decide when the right time is to introduce your new partner to your kids.
There is no set rule or time when it becomes appropriate to introduce your new partner to your kids, if only life were that easy. However, in considering when it might be appropriate to introduce a new partner, you should give some thought to the following:
Keep your kid’s needs at the forefront of all decisions you make
We often see parents make the mistake of assuming that because they love their new partner their kids will automatically love them too. It is really important to remember that separation whilst challenging for the parties, is more often far more challenging for kids and often kids will (at least initially) hold a deep desire for their parents to just get back together. As such, introducing a new partner to your kids too soon, can actually be detrimental to any future relationship between your new partner and your kids because there may be feelings of hesitation and resentment towards this new person. Take it slow and always put yourself in your kid’s shoes.
Make sure it is serious
It may be likely that there will be a few bad dates before you find the right person that you really connect with. Kids don’t need to be exposed to a revolving door of people who just don’t work out. As such, rather than looking at how long you have been in a new relationship, try to look at the quality of that relationship before deciding to make an introduction.
Take it slow
Sometimes parents re-partner very quickly after separation. Sometimes the financial constraints of separation result in parents moving in with their new partner very quickly to share living expenses. Whilst there is nothing prohibiting this, you shouldn’t expect your kids to immediately be fine with spending a significant amount of time with your new partner. Take it slow. Your kids need to spend significant time with you, their parent. They will not always want to spend that time with somebody else, as they may see it as competition for your love and attention. If you are the parent who has less time with the children they may be resentful of ‘sharing you’, so be conscious to have some individual time with them alone.
Accept the difficult conversation
As a parent, you should regularly talk to your kids about how they are feeling. You should be doing this even more often when you separate from the children’s parent. These conversations aren’t always easy and in fact you might hear some things that you would rather not hear. This is particularly so if there is a discussion about your new partner. Too often, we see parents make the mistake of defending their new partner rather than letting their kids know that it is OK to have feelings and reassuring them about any feelings they may have. Remind them of how much you love them, how much their other parent loves them and assure them that your new partner is not there to try and replace their other parent.
Speak to your former partner
If possible, let your former partner know that you have a new significant other and that you are going to introduce the children. The children will be far more accepting if they think your former partner is comfortable with the new person in your life.
Introducing a new partner to your kids can be difficult and it can be really hard to know when the right time is to make introductions. By observing some of the above tips you will be giving your kids the time to build up trust and it may just make the transition a little easier on everyone.