Introducing Your Child To a New Partner
Being a single parent is hard as it is, no matter how old your child is. Single-parent families have become even more common than the so-called ‘nuclear family’ consisting of a mother, father, and children. Lately, we see all sorts of single-parent families headed by mothers, fathers, grandparent/s, etc. Life in a single-parent household is stressful not only for the adult, but for the child as well. High expectations are common, the consistent feeling that something is wrong even when it is not, juggling the responsibility of raising children, maintaining a job, household chores, paying the bills, as well as maintaining a social life for the parent. Many single parents tend to avoid having romantic relationships out of fear that their child will not accept their new partner while other single parents date casually and introduce almost every partner to their child. Both cases are unhealthy. Every human being has an intense desire to be loved and nurtured. Contact comfort, the desire to be held and touched is completely normal and we are all entitled to it. Meeting someone new is always difficult even when children aren’t involved, but when children are, the matter becomes even more confusing and stressful.
Needless to say, if you parent alone, it is unnecessary to introduce your child to every person you date, in fact it is preferred that you don’t for many reasons. Children can be protective of their parents, especially if your child has witnessed you being hurt in a previous relationship. In addition, the process of accepting someone new in your life is difficult due to attachment issues, jealousy, and feeling threatened that your partner may replace their father or take you away from your child. When introducing your child to your partner, make sure that you and your partner are at a mutual agreement that the relationship is serious and has a future. This will decrease the risk of your child being hurt and creates stability. Who better to give us the proper advice other than those that have been through the experience themselves and succeeded!
- Be open with your child. Let him/her know that you need to socialize and meet new people.
- Reassure your child that no one can replace their father and you could never love anyone more than your child.
- Talk to your child about your new partner- let your child know their opinion maters. Your child may fear that their needs may no longer be met, reassure them that you will always be there to meet their needs.
- Create a meeting between your children and your partner. Make sure the meeting consists of a fun activity such as the cinema, a visit to the zoo, aquarium, and bowling, to name a few. Make sure the setting is neutral and your child feels at ease in order to avoid feeling the child’s space is invaded. Keep the first meeting short and sweet.
- Discuss the meeting with your partner and your child separately. Try to understand how they felt and what their needs are. Do not dismiss any negative feelings, force any feelings of acceptance, otherwise you will discourage an open environment for honesty in the future. The second meeting should also a neutral setting with more opportunity for both parties to interact. Focus on indirectly combatting any negative feelings.
- Involve your child in preparing for meetings but also make it clear that couples need time alone together, in order for your child to accept this concept, you need to spend quality time alone with your child. A minimum of 20-30 minutes per day is essential.
- Give yourself some “me time” to reflect on how you feel.
- If your child’s father is involved in your child’s life, tell them about your new relationship once you feel it has a future.
Parent sources have asked to remain anonymous:
Father of two adolescent girls that have accepted and have a close relationship his partner, who he is happily married to.
Mother of one 10 year-old boy, currently in a serious long-term relationship with her partner. The three have a healthy and happy relationship.
National Association of School Psychologists