HAVE you tried introducing your children to your new partner and no matter what you do they simply just don’t like him and despite anything you try, they just don’t get along? What could be the reason that your children don’t like your new partner? According to Christof Sharp from Co-parenting South Africa, there are many possible answers to this question. INTRODUCING YOUR NEW PARTNER TO YOUR CHILDREN Christof, who is an accredited mediator and case manager and has worked on many cases involving parenting issues, says, “From cases that we have assisted the main reason is that parents blend the new family too quickly in other words it’s not that the children dislike the new parent, it is simply that they need time to get to know the new parent,” says Christof. Petro Theron from Families South Africa agrees with Christof. “Parents tend to forget they are the ones who are impressed by the new partner and that the child has no sentiment or feelings towards them. It’s the parent’s feelings that are invested in the new relationship and as a result, they end up pushing the partner into the child’s life. This often causes the child to resent the partner,” she says. Petro recommends that you make sure your partner is permanent in your life. “Constantly changing partners creates some uncertainty for children. If you are sure about this new one, then gradually introduce him into your children’s lives,” she says. GIVING YOUR CHILDREN TIME Petro advises that in cases of divorce or a breakup from a biological parent, it is important to give yourself and your children time, at least a year or two, before moving into a new relationship. This is to give your children time to grieve the loss of the end of their relationship with their biological parent. “They’ve also experienced loss and need to understand this new life without their biological parent,” she says. Christof agrees, “Parents divorce, but children never divorce their biological parents and they are always loyal towards them. Sadly, children are often forced to call the new parent or partner mom or dad,” he says, adding that this often complicates the situation because that person is not their mom or dad. Christof suggests blending the family slowly and having or showing respect to your former partner. SIGNS THAT YOUR CHILD DOESN’T LIKE YOUR PARTNER According to experts, children have a problem with loyalty as at times they still feel linked to their biological parent. Children in different life stages or ages will act out their dislike in different ways, most commonly: ¦ Tantrums, especially when the new partner is around ¦ Being withdrawn, wanting to be on their own ¦ Acting out ¦ Teenagers will tend to be more difficult ¦ Refusing to be left alone with the new partner or disregarding them DON’T PUSH Petro says, “Depending on the age of the child, it’s important to sit down with them and let them understand the role of this new person. If the children are younger, around the ages of seven or eight, use simpler ways of making them know that this person is not trying to replace their parent and that they are important to you, just like they are also important to you as your children.” Take it slow, give it time, don’t push the relationship and don’t push the child. “If you blend the family slowly, maybe over a period of two years, you will know how the relationship is between the children and the new parent or partner. Blended families are also compared to extreme sport because making it work with a strained relationship between the children and the new partner is almost like skydiving without a parachute,” says Christof. Petro advises to also watch if your child reacts in the opposite way and becomes too attached to the new partner. “At times there could be an emotional need, where the child becomes attached to everyone. This means there is something lacking in their lives, maybe that father or mother figure and they are trying to find it in all the different new partners the parent brings,” says Petro. GETTING YOUR CHILDREN TO LIKE YOUR NEW PARTNER First things first, define parenting roles clearly and give your children time and space to get to know the new parent. Do family activities, if your children are younger, play games with them, this will help the new partner and your child to interact. If you are co-parenting effectively with your former partner, the introduction of a new partner will be much easier for your child. It’s also important to put your children’s safety first. That’s why it’s advisable not to introduce them to different partners until you’re sure they’re permanent in your life.