Lifestyle Family

Tshepiso Makhele
5 minute read
5 Nov 2018
2:11 pm

How to introduce a new partner to your kids

Tshepiso Makhele

Parents should know that just because they are smitten over the partner, doesn’t mean their children will show the same enthusiasm.

Picture: iStock

Being a parent involves a lot. If you are not helping the kids with homework, you are working extra shifts at work trying to provide as best you can, or you are attending a parent-teacher-meeting.

Then, you also may have to deal with a new partner and worrying about how your children will receive him/her. More often than not, parents feel like there are not enough hours in a day to fit all this in.

Life is extremely busy without having to worry about when and how to make the big introduction, but such is life. Making this major decision shouldn’t be taken lightly though as it has an impact on your children’s emotional well-being.

I know every single parent has that fear of whether or not their children will like their new partner, often attempting to find ways to avoid a negative reaction.

While some parents swiftly move from one relationship to the next and rush into introducing their children to the new partner, the truth is that this can be quite unsettling for the children, and can result in an unstable relationship between parents and kids and between the children and this new love interest.

It is without a doubt rather advisable to wait for some time before you introduce a new person into your children’s lives, giving you enough time to establish just how serious the relationship is and if your children have accepted that their daddy and mommy are no longer a pair. You don’t want to push your children too hard.

iStock Images.

Don’t put them in a position where they feel compelled to pick whom they like better, and question whether they are betraying their dad/mom by accepting this new partner. As a parent, you should understand that loss of a parent, be it through death or separation means that the kids go through a period of grief.

Your children’s age and the situation with their absent parent are just some of the two major things you should consider before making the decision to introduction the new partner. To ensure a smooth transition, rather than shock your children and risk a bad reaction, its best to drop the person’s name every now and then in a conversation with the children; that way getting them used to the idea of them being a part of your life.

Try telling some interesting stories about him/her without over-selling them; that way the kids won’t feel they are a let-down when they finally get to put the face to the name.

Regardless of anything, kids want to see their parents happy; that one is a fact for any well-functioning child, so if they see that this new person makes you joyful, they are more likely to respond positively towards them, as long as the new relationship does not take away from the time you spend with them.

And as much as the kids might be open to the idea of mommy or daddy dating a new partner, the partner also has to be open to the idea of meeting the kids. So, talk to him/her about your children before making the introduction and get how he/she feels about kids because meeting another person’s kids can be quite intimidating regardless of whether or not you have kids yourself.

Try not to get ahead of yourself. A good friend of mine was so smitten over her new man that she disregarded how volatile their relationship was, with the constant arguments, and chose to focus on the fact that she needed the relationship to work.

So she introduced the man to the children, who just recently had lost their dad through divorce, resulting in the kids getting attached to this man who sadly broke up with their mother after a few months, and them going through a similar grieving period they went through when their father moved out of the house.

Graphic: Costa Mokola

It’s best to keep in mind that your new relationship will not only affect your life but your children’s lives, and also the lives of your extended family, who might no doubt, have strong views about any decisions you make that affect the kids.

You may feel it is none of their business, but let them know the situation in advance, and not merely introduce your new partner to the kids. There is a better chance of them supporting you if they feel as though they have been consulted rather than just informed after the introduction.

Only once you have informed your family can you have some home visits, even then, I personally feel it’s best to keep the first few visits and the introduction short, and at a neutral place, like a park or restaurant.  An informal setting may be more comfortable for your children rather than planning a long visit similar to a formal meeting.

Research shows that younger children, especially those below the age of 10 may feel confused, cross, or even unhappy with the new partner because they have a habit of being possessive over their parents, however, it further indicates that teenagers may be more accepting of the new partner than younger children, but they may nonetheless identify that person as a threat to their relationship with a parent, and find open affection between their parent and a partner disturbing.

With this in mind, parents should know that just because they are smitten over the partner, doesn’t mean their children will show the same enthusiasm. It’s vital that you reflect on your children’s needs for security and support before being too excited and introducing them to your new lover too soon, causing destabilisation and stress in the house.

It’s not clever to plan an overnight visit with your new partner in your home right away because it can increase jealousy between them and your kids. However, if you are co-parenting, it could work better to invite your partner over when the kids are with the other parent. Determine how comfortable the kids are with your new love interest.

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