Learn how important it is to gently introduce your new partner to your child and how you can do that the right way. It’s an 8 minute read and a MUST for every single parent out there.
Trying to introduce a new partner to your child after a divorce can be a tough situation. In many cases, children do not understand the circumstance right from the beginning and start to feel overwhelmed. Often, that is something you can hardly prevent.
But how do you introduce and set up the relationship with your new partner so your child does not feel hurt or avoided?
The simple answer is to make your child like your new partner right when they first meet. Help them get warm with each other, but keep your intentions clear to your kid. Just be truthful and communicate the right way.
WHen to introduce your new partner?
Even though this question is actually not that hard to answer, many parents tend to overthink it.
When you are dating and searching for a new partner, you should avoid introducing too many people to your child. Doing that would only convey that you are not taking things seriously.
This does not mean that you should hide your “unserious” relationships, but rather be open and empathetic towards your child and explain things as you feel in their language.
Another important criteria you should take into consideration before getting your child to meet your new partner is that you are convinced that this is a longterm relationship, which will last. If this is not the case, you probably should not introduce them to each other.
And if the relationship breaks and you feel bad, your feelings might also affect and pressure your kid additionally.
Moreover, please give your child some time to cope with the initial divorce. When the situation is a bit cooled down, you should be able to meet new people and find a new partner. But please do not make the mistake and pressure your child instantly with a big change in their life, and rather give your full attention to your child’s needs and wants first.
Besides that, you need to pay attention if your child and your considered partner are a good fit for each other. I see a lot of parents prioritizing their feelings and opinions and not their children’s ones, which is a big mistake. When your child and your partner are not having a good time with each other, you should seek out for a new partner.
And yes, I know this seems hard. But I had a similar experience and I can tell you, that you would rather want to look for a partner that is able to maintain a loving relationship with your child, then messing up the bond between your kid and yourself.
So, to sum things up, the right time to introduce your partner is the time you and your child are ready for it. If you are able to answer the following questions you can conclude based on your answers and then decide if it is the right time.
- Will my new relationship last?
- Will my child like my partner (and vice versa)?
- Is my child in a solid emotional state?
How to answer your child’s questions if you’re not sure yet.
Let’s say you started dating a while ago and it gets a bit more serious. You want to take your new possible partner home with you. Your son is also home.
Now, this is not considered as the “first meeting”, rather as the first hello or contact. The first meeting is the one they will get together on purpose the first time for an event like going to the cinema or things of that nature.
After having a nice talk and a coffee, he left and right away, your child starts to fire some questions at you.
For example, common questions are:
- “Is that your new boy/girlfriend?”
- “Is that my new mom/dad?”
- “Who was that?”
The clue here is that you are not really sure if you actually want to commit to being in a relationship with the person that just left. Again, the key is being authentic and honest to your child. Explain to them what your intentions are and answer their questions precisely.
Many children are not even capable of truly comprehending what a relationship is actually about. Still, they kind of feel threatened when there is a so-called “new daddy/mom”.
So here is a recommendation to answer the questions above but remember to try to convey your feelings disguised in children’s language to make it as easy as possible for your kid to understand your intentions.
“No, this was a friend mommy/daddy just got to know. He/She is really kind and I like him/her. I don’t know if he/she will be my new boy/girlfriend someday, but I will definitely tell you. What do you think about him/her?”
THE FIRST MEETING & Breaking the news
The meeting is the actual first gettogether as a ‘patchwork-family’. At least kind of. What you are trying to do here is to figure out if your child fits your new partner and how he responds to him. For now, don’t tell your child that this is your new partner either.
I recommend doing some kind of event together. This might be going to the cinema, watching football together (maybe more for the guys) or even go for a swim. Do something that engages your child in the attendance of your partner.
Breaking the news
Your first meeting should not be the one you tell your child that this is your new partner and for now on, he will play a big role in your lives. Please also be careful with gestures that tell your kid that there’s already something going on.
If you think about it, he just met your partner and might not be sure about what to think of him. So, begin things slow.
Start off by asking your child what he thinks about him after he met your partner. Pay attention that you are alone with your child, not in the presence of your spouse. This would only pressure your child and leads to insincere responses.
If your child likes your partner, you should be good to say that he is your new spouse and that he will be with you more often from now on. Furthermore, be sure to continuously ask your child if that’s okay for him and what he thinks about it, so you can figure out what type of concerns he has.
Keep in mind, that even though your son or daughter said they would like your new spouse, there still might be some hidden anxieties from their perspective. So find those and try to solve them.
If your child does not like your partner, it is a bit of a different story. Now, that does not mean that you need to dump your companion as soon as possible, but you need to be careful here. As always it comes down to good communication.
Still, tell your child that the person he just met is your considerable new partner and start off by telling him that you really like him/her (your partner) and why. Go deep on why your child does not feel the same way and maybe you are able to clarify some things right from the start.
In many cases, this does not solve the problem itself. So, I recommend continuously trying to strengthen the relationship between your spouse and your child before making any crucial decisions. Do some activities together. Let your partner engage in the day to day life of your child (for example: picking him up from school or driving him to a friends place). Of course, only if your child agrees with doing that.
And if the day has come, you ask your child again what he thinks and he still responds that he does not like your partner or has any other significant concerns, you should consider breaking up.
Still, at this point, you can be open about being in love with your partner and that it would mean the world to you if he would be willing to try out, living in a patchwork family. If that’s a yes, there’s a good chance your child will change his opinion throughout a few months.
But if that assumption does not play out and real issues occur in your household, for better or worse, you need to support your child and end the relationship with your companion, as soon as it starts to hurt your child.
I have gone through exactly this situation. My mom dragged me into her relationship even though I had a hard time being around her new boyfriend. This is also one of the reasons I got mentally ill.
So please always watch out for your child’s best interest and listen to him continuously.
HOW TO STRENGTHEN THE BOND BETWEEN YOUR CHILD AND YOUR PARTNER?
Here’s a little disclaimer. If you want to strengthen the bond between your child and spouse, be sure to not reach for the stars.
What I mean by this is that many parents want their new spouse to be like a new dad or mom for their children, which is a wrong approach to go after. Let alone if your child still has great contact with the other parent (co-parent), it is nearly impossible to put a step-parent on the same level as the real parent.
Instead, many parents should aim for an amicable relationship between their child and their spouse.
You can do that by engaging in events together or let your partner be the one who picks up your child from school. Simply things that make your child spend time with your companion.
CONSIDER MOVING IN?
Moving in with your partner can be a delicate situation for your child. If you do it wrong, you potentially risk your child’s well-being in the long term. But if you did everything as described above, it should be fairly easy.
To make it easier for you to determine whether your child is ready for the next step or not, here’s a little checklist you should follow when considering moving in with your new partner.
1. Make sure your child knows your spouse well
This may seem obvious, but there are a lot of parents doing this mistake over and over again.
For example, my mother moved in with her partner (and dragged me with her) when I knew him for just three months. This is definitely way too early and it was also one of the reasons why I got mentally ill.
You want to be sure that your child and your partner get along well and they’re both able to assess each other. I would recommend spending time mutually for approximately one and a half years before moving together in a patchwork family.
2. Select the right place to move to.
When moving to another home, you have to certainly pick one that is still in the same area as your child grew up in.
If your child gets torn out of his known social surroundings, it is very likely that he suffers even more from the current situation. Especially in the circumstances of separation which is not that long ago.
Wow! That’s a lot that we’ve covered here today.
In a nutshell, it all comes down to good communication and being honest with your child. Be sure that you are able to create a good relationship between your child and spouse.
This topic is really important to me and I hope you understood how much bad can happen if you do it wrong. I had a lot of problems dealing with some mistakes my mom did in relation to this subject.
It would mean the world to me if you have a happy patchwork family.
Thank you so much for reading this. If there are any questions, you can hit me up through the contact page or on Twitter.
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Hi! I'm Niels.
Born in Germany and a child of divorce. I’ve built this Blog in cooperation with two great kids therapists (including the one I had to visit for years) to give you proven resources about how to lead children through the process of divorce without getting them emotionally and psychologically hurt like I had to experience.