It was supposed to be their dad. You were supposed to stay with him forever – but that went south. That was bad enough, now they have to deal with the fact that there’s another man in your life? How’s this gonna go down?
Telling your kids you’ve begun a romantic relationship with someone new is tricky. It’s an uncomfortable conversation to have – particularly if it’s the first time you’re having it since separating from your family partner. There are ways, however, to soften the blow — to make them feel more at ease with a situation that they didn’t want or ask for.
1 | Don’t do it right away
Wait until the relationship is well established and on solid ground before introducing this big change into your children’s lives.
2 | If appropriate, tell their father (or mother) first — and tell them you did so
When the children first learn you are in a new relationship, their first thought will likely be of their other parent; they’ll worry s/he is in some way being betrayed. If you can assure them that their other parent is already aware of this news, the guilt and burden they may feel will be lifted.
3 | Tell them one-on-one
When you do decide the time is right, pull each child aside individually to deliver this news. A close, intimate conversation between just the two of you will afford him or her a greater sense of safety and more freedom to react in a genuine, uninhibited way.
4 | Assure them they’re still #1, no matter what
Their first reaction will be, “What about me?” Even if they don’t express that concern out loud, tell them that this in no way affects the relationship you have with them. Just because another person is in the picture doesn’t mean there’s less room in your life for your children.
5 | Encourage them to ask questions
Any and all questions are fair game. They’ve just been dealt some heavy news – allow them to ask whatever question(s) will help them to better process the information they’ve received. You can use digression in how you answer the questions — but allow them to ask, nonetheless.
6 | Ask them questions
They may clam up; they may say nothing at all. That’s when you step in and ask them probing questions (gently) in attempt to identify how they’re feeling about it. If they don’t answer, don’t push. Revisit it at a later date.
7 | Give them space to process the news
When you’re done with the initial conversation, encourage them to take some time to themselves to sit with their emotions, but also assure them you’re available when and if they want to talk about it further.
8 | Ask your partner to give you space
Just as your kids need space to deal with their feelings on the matter, so might you. Delivering news such as this to your children can take a significant emotional toll on you as well.
9 | Give your children a say in when and how they meet your new partner
Maybe your new partner is someone they already know or maybe it’s someone new. In either case, giving your children some control over when they begin spending time with this person will make them feel more like stakeholders.
10 | Hug them. Kiss them. Tell them you love them – often
Though they may not show it, their insecurities may be skyrocketing during this time. Nurture their fragile egos with loving words of affirmation.
There is nothing easy when it comes to navigating divorce — particularly when children are involved. It’s a slippery slope — a series of decision that can have a ripple effect in the lives of those around you. Whether children like it or not, dating after divorce is a fact of life for many. We can’t expect to stay single forever in order to protect their feelings. What we can do, however, is help to ease the transition for them.