Have you finally found someone you think you might be able to share your life with again?
Here’s some sound advice from our experts for introducing a new partner into your world.
It’s unrealistic to expect a single parent to stay single forever. Whether after a divorce or the death of a loved one, most people eventually need some adult conversation and want someone who will love and take care of them again. But how do you approach introducing a new partner into your life without upsetting your children, and when is the best time to do so?
“The timing of an introduction of a new partner is not an exact science,” says Stephanie Dark, a registered psychological counsellor in Panorama, Cape Town. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, she adds. If handled correctly, it could make the difference between a problematic relationship and smooth sailing.
Dark suggests you try to prepare both your child and partner for meeting each other. “Start by talking to your child about this person as a new friend. Try to find things to tell your child that they will enjoy about the new person, but keep it simple and light like a friendship would be.”
As for your partner, remember they might have concerns too. “He or she may also be nervous, especially if they don’t have children of their own, so help them out with topics for conversation about your child’s interests. Explain to them what the general rules are where the child’s behaviour is concerned and they are not to reprimand your child for any behaviour they feel might be wrong; that is your job as the primary parent,” says Dark.
“For the introduction try and find a neutral place to meet and if your child becomes very agitated or uncomfortable, end the meeting and address the feelings at home.”
When introducing them, remember, “It’s important to be yourself. Your child will pick up on it as soon as you try too hard or take on a different or nervous persona. This will be very confusing to them. Relax and be yourself. Have patience for them to connect if, initially, that may not be the case.”
Dark also says it’s also best to avoid physical contact such as kissing or holding hands in the beginning, especially during the introduction, as this may cause jealousy or resentment from the child. Keep conversation light. “Try to keep most topics of conversation about or related to the child. Point out positive aspects of your child, and let your partner validate these.”
What if they don’t get along?
“Listen to your child. In the case of a new partner there will always be obstacles to overcome, therefore be aware of what your child needs and allow a space for them to voice their worries and opinions about a new partner. It is your responsibility, as the parent, to make sure there is a safe space for your child to speak to you without judgment or resentment from your side.”
Also make sure you keep paying attention to your child’s feelings – remember your first responsibility is towards your child, who’s dependent on you for emotional security, not your new partner, even if they may be feeling unsure.
“Don’t leave it up to the child to come to you. Check in with them on a regular basis about how they are feeling. You and your partner are the adults; the pressure should not be on the child to make a connection to the new partner.”
Before re-entering the dating world or making a relationship serious by introducing a partner to your children, Dark says you should consider the following:
- Are you ready for the possibility of a new relationship? Being separated from your previous partner, for whatever reason, is always traumatic. Therefore ensure you’ve worked through the worst of the related emotions before dating again.
- How’s your child doing at the moment? Is your child in a stable state of mind and are the two of you getting along well? “One of the most crucial aspects is to ensure that the attachment between parent and child is secure enough to allow for a new person,” says Dark.
- Can you envision a stable and happy future with this person? Make sure of this before you introduce them to your kids. “You don’t want your child to form an attachment to a new person who won’t be a consistent part of their life.”
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