Updated: Feb 21
Most divorced people will eventually repartner. When this happens, there are several things to consider. First and foremost, the well-being of your child needs to take centre stage. That means you must consider the emotional and mental impact that having a new partner may have on your children.
Keeping your explanations age appropriate is very important. Younger kids experience and interpret their world differently from older children, who can rationalise and think abstractly. Younger children can get confused easily and come up with strange interpretations for situations, so it’s crucial you keep the communication open.
Be sensitive to how much time your children spend with a new partner and pay attention to any feedback they’re giving you. Introducing a new partner can cause children of any age to have negative feelings. These bad feelings may be about themselves and they may even feel guilty for not being able to rescue the situation with their parents. Anger and resentment can flare up, and possibly even jealousy, for a variety of reasons.
In general, children need time to process the reality of their parents’ divorce and having to process a new relationship too close to the initial breakup may be more than their little minds can keep up with. It is often extremely incongruent for younger children to see a parent with a boyfriend or girlfriend shortly after the separation has been announced, because they already can’t process the fact that mommy and daddy aren’t going to be together anymore, never mind that now mommy or daddy love someone else.
Most current literature on the topic recommends waiting 6 - 9 months after the initial physical separation of the parents before introducing a new partner. To begin with, take it slow. Maybe the new partner just drops in for 10 minutes to briefly meet the children and have tea. Perhaps the next time the visit is slightly longer, like 30 minutes or an hour and it’s based around an activity such as going for a walk or some ice cream.
Always stay engaged with your children’s input and reactions after they’ve had interactions with the new partner and try to notice if there are any concerns or misconceptions that should be addressed. Do not ask leading questions that will lure your children into giving you the answers you would like to hear. Rather, really listen to what’s going on for them. It might be harder, but this is better in the long run.