Today’s blog is written by a Mum who separated from her husband last year. Both her and her ex have both met new partners and so as time moves on she wonders if, when and how she might introduce her new partner to her 3 children.
“John and I split up last summer, we have been amicable about the whole thing and thankfully still communicate regularly about the children. We are now both seeing new partners and although neither of us feel ready to introduce new ‘friends’ to the children, it has opened up the conversation between us about whether it is a good idea to do it, also when and how do you do it?
When to introduce them
One thing I am very sure of is that I don’t want to introduce someone to the kids until I am 100% sure of the person myself. I can imagine how disruptive and confusing it would be to introduce my children to every date I happened to have. Parading a string of men to them would not only confuse them but would also send them the wrong message about how to conduct oneself as an adult.
Only a few weeks ago, a thoughtless friend, asked me in front of the children; “How’s the dating going?” My 8 year old heard and later asked me what my friend had meant by the question. I was flummoxed as to how to reply. I called John to talk to him about what happened and we agreed our strategy to be as follows:
“We love you very much and when we are with you, we are focused 100% on you guys. However, Mum and Dad are also people in our own right and when we aren’t with you, we have our own lives and some of that time is spent meeting new people. “
How to introduce them
So, if and when either John or I get to the stage where we are sure enough of a new partner to think about introducing them to the children – I think the following things will be in our minds:
Age of the children
Currently our children are 11, 9 and 4. So perhaps the way we would tell each of the children would be different as their level of understanding of adult relationships is different. For example, our youngest child may feel confused, angry, or sad since he is more possessive of us.
Also, through books and TV, children this age may have built up an idea in their heads about ‘wicked stepmothers’ and a feeling that with a new person on the scene they may not be loved anymore. Worse still they may feel the new partner is a replacement for their Mum or Dad.
Leading up to the meeting
Thinking about arranging a first meeting with a new partner is a terrifying thought. I think the worst plan would be to spring it on them, and suddenly present the person without prior warning. (My own childhood memories of receiving a letter at boarding school from my mother with a photo of herself and a new husband enclosed was probably not the gentlest of introductions!).
I would of course discuss what I was going to do with John first so that he would be aware of what I was going to tell the kids. He would then be better placed to field questions from them and be prepared for it.
My plan would be to talk to the kids and explain that I am dating someone that I care about and that I’d like to introduce them to him in a while and ask them if they have any questions. Depending on their reactions I suppose would dictate the next step of arranging a meeting.
The first meeting
Having done quite a bit of reading up on this, the advice would seem to be that the first meeting should be short and on neutral territory. So perhaps a visit to a park or a pizza restaurant of their choice. Then if things seem tense or go wrong, there is not much time for him or them to endure.
I suppose, their reactions could be anything from sullen silence to happy interaction, but there is no way of knowing whether they will warm to this new person or even like him. I will need to remember that just because I like him, doesn’t mean they will!
Reassurance at every stage that my new partner will not replace their Dad, or change my relationship with them I think will be the key to making it a success. Feeling that they may have to share me with this new person could be a cause of resentment and unhappy confusion.”