You’ve fallen in love with a new significant other and want to introduce this person to your kids. But it’s best to proceed with caution before taking this big post-divorce step. Your children need time to adjust and may not immediately share your enthusiasm for your partner, especially if the introduction isn’t handled with care. Here are some tips to make the transition as smooth – and as child-centered – as possible.
Let Your Ex Know First
Don’t put your children in the position of breaking the news to your ex, especially if your former spouse still harbors anger towards you. You are more likely to gain your ex’s support if you consult with them beforehand. No matter how you feel about your former spouse, it’s important to be respectful when you deliver the news.
- Don’t gloat. Your former spouse doesn’t want to hear details of your love life, or the fact that your new partner is younger, richer, or more fun to be with. The momentary glee you may feel from rubbing your ex’s face in your happiness will not be worth the antagonism and conflict that may follow.
- Put yourself in your ex’s place. The news may feel overwhelming to your ex. They may feel threatened by the new parent figure in your kids’ lives and concerned that this person may not be a good role model. They may also feel grief, as a new partner is a sign that the marriage is really over. Don’t react if your ex is upset by the news; allow them to have their feelings and be available to answer questions.
- Consider an introduction. Depending on the nature of your relationship with your ex, you may want to introduce them to your new partner before you tell the kids. This will eliminate the mystery factor and lessen your ex’s anxiety. The more comfortable your former spouse feels about your new partner, the better the transition for the kids.
How To Tell Your Kids
Unless you have adult children who won’t be directly impacted by your romantic life, wait until you and your new partner are committed to a serious relationship. Your kids are feeling the loss of their original family structure and you don’t want them to get attached to someone who isn’t going to stick around.
- Be gradual. Plan activities so your kids get comfortable with your partner, and have fun in the process. Your significant other should not spend the night until they’ve gotten to know your children.
- Assure your kids. Let them know your new partner is not replacing their other parent, but is another adult who cares about them.
- Allow your kids to have their feelings. Not only did your children not have a say in your divorce, but they also didn’t get a choice about your love life. They need time to adjust. Let them know whatever feelings they have are okay, and you’re available whenever they want to talk.
Remember – the introduction of your new partner will affect the lives of everyone in your reconfigured family. Going slowly and mindfully will ease the transition and increase the odds that this relationship will last.
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