So, you’ve been single for a while. You’ve navigated the bumpy road of separation, and have been rockin’ it as a savvy solo mum.
But…wait. You’ve met someone.
Your new partner is a keeper and you introduce him to your kids. The routine and dynamic you have created since singledom is set to change.
The ‘you’ is starting to look a bit more like ‘us’, and fitting this other person into your children’s lives can be a new challenge. Nurturing a good relationship between your kids and your new partner is more important than you think. Especially if he is in for the long haul. Once the shiny novelty of a new faux Daddy has worn off, there has to be a stronger connection to replace it.
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How to Nurture a Good Relationship Between your Kids and Your New Partner
He’s Taking Mummy Away From Us
Depending on the ages and stages of your kids, they are probably used to being the centre of your universe.
Some children may feel as though they now have to “share” your time with someone else, and this can be difficult. The best way to nurture a good relationship between your kids and your new partner starts from day one. Spending time together as a group will help to forge that bond. New, shared experiences such as watching a play, a visit to a fun park, or a trip away will give them happy memories and something to reflect on.
In addition to the “one off”s, it’s the small stuff that matters. When he gets involved in their homework, watches them play sport, or takes them to the park it will show the kids he genuinely cares. Not ‘I care because I want a photo showing I care’, but ‘I care for REAL’.
You’re NOT My Dad!
No. He’s not their dad, and that’s OK.
Your kids may be loyal to the other parent, and this is completely normal.
You and your new partner can offer the kids reassurance that he isn’t trying to replace Daddy. If your relationship with your ex is amicable, he may even support this by reassuring the children that Mummy moving on is a positive step. While children need boundaries and you would expect they would treat any of your friends politely, you shouldn’t push too hard.
The next point may be obvious but I’ll reinforce it. Expecting good manners such as a ‘”please” and “thank you”, is a bit different to demanding ‘GIVE HIM A HUG! CALL HIM DAD! CHANGE YOUR LAST NAME TO HIS’.
Let your kids dictate what they feel comfortable with.
Nurturing the new relationship between your kids and your partner means not making him the “bad guy”. While every household is different, the parent generally works better as the disciplinarian. Inviting some new guy to suddenly be in charge will go about as well as letting a bull loose in a china shop. It will be emotional destruction and your kids and your partner will likely feel resentment for each other, and for you. That’s not to say that he shouldn’t be treated with respect. Just that “PUT THAT DOWN”or “I’M CANCELLING CHRISTMAS!” should be your words not his.
Time is Your Best Commodity
Mums often feel like they are being stretched in 100 directions at once. You have to be a time management extraordinaire just to get through the demands of a Monday.
When you have a new special person in your life, you will need to include some couple time in your schedule. While Mr. Right will have to be prepared to fit into your family routine, your relationship needs care too. Balancing one-on-one time with your kids, one-on-one time with your partner, AND time together as a family is a balancing act which isn’t as hard as it sounds. If everyone is feeling secure in the situation it will reduce the likelihood of any bitterness.
When you nurture the relationship between your children and your new partner, they will be invested in the arrangement. If things don’t work out it will be hard for them too, so make sure you and your new partner are on the same page before making any big moves. If he has kids too it can be slightly more complicated. But, embracing the chaos, being patient, and not sweating the small stuff will go a long way in maintaining your sanity.
Remember, it is OK to move on and while there may be an adjustment period, for the right person it will be worth it. Adding a new adult into their lives can give them someone else to confide in, to share memories with, and to hug goodnight.