First, Allow Time For Adjustment To The Divorce
When deciding the “if, how, and when” of introducing a new partner to your child, first consider the adjustment period they’ve been in since the divorce.
How strongly did the divorce affect your children?
How were they able to cope?
If your children are still showing signs of emotional distress (anger, sadness, fear, surprise, non-compliance) in reaction to the divorce, then you may want to hold off. Your child could need a period of at least 6 months -1 year for healthy adjustment. It is my belief that a successful adjustment to the divorce as a whole is predictive of a successful introduction of your child and new partner.
Ways you can make the divorce adjustment easier for your child:
- Take good care of yourself and model healthy coping skills
- Maintain consistent routines and rituals in each home whenever possible
- Validate and empathize with any and all feelings your children have
- Give your child permission to love both parents
- Continue participation in extracurricular activities to detach from and release stress
Ways you could be making the divorce adjustment harder for your child:
- Being unable to cope well with the divorce yourself
- Initiating too many transitions at once (new house, new school, new city, etc)
- Passing on negative messages about the other parent
- Exposing your child to violence, fighting and/or arguing between you and the other parent
- Denying your child access to their other parent
After the divorce adjustment occurs – successful introduction to the new partner can occur
It is best to keep your dating activities private as much as possible until you are in a committed relationship. If you feel confident that your child is ready to meet and accept your new partner, plan an event that is light and easy for all during the first meeting. Make it special by including one of your child’s favorite activities. Keep the timing short—plan to have just enough time to break the ice and then end on a positive note. When you are alone again, make sure to process your child’s feelings from the introduction. Be sure they understand that any and all feelings they may have are completely okay. I find that younger children tend to be more welcoming of their parents dating, while older children and teens may express a lot of anger.
When your child is not happy about you dating again
Give them space to be angry. Let them move at their own pace so they can come around to acceptance without feeling forced. If the first meeting is hard, encourage them to try again another day (it only gets easier with time).
With the right amount of preparation and care, I hope that your child will come to build their own new relationship with this person and feel the same joy as you!
*North Shore Pediatric Therapy, Inc. (NSPT) intends for responses to the blogs to provide general educational information to the readership of this website; all content and answers to questions should not be understood to be specific advice intended for any particular individual(s). Questions submitted to this blog are not guaranteed to receive responses. No ongoing relationship of any sort (including but not limited to any form of professional relationship) is implied or offered by NSPT to people submitting questions. Always consult with your health professional first before initiating or changing any aspect of your treatment regimen.