After divorce or a painful break up with the other parent, does parenting naturally become your number one priority? Your child’s healing becomes your default responsibility to guide and nurture the child back to optimum health. Healing and nurturing is the ultimate quest for many parents during the grieving process and throughout the time it takes to re-order life. But what happens when you have healed and moved on, begun dating and are now ready to move to move toward satisfaction in a romantic partner again? Many people throw around this perfect timing as arbitrarily as the weather forecasters throw around possible sunshine in Seattle. “Six months minimum,” “I’d say 9-12 months,” “At least a full year,” “When we are engaged…” Who is to say when the right time is, but you?
There are five common things to consider when taking the step to introduce a new loved one to your young family. These 5 elements and details to the introduction process have been expressed by parents in forums as well as recommended by other counseling resources abroad.
The number one thing to consider as you introduce a new partner is timing. Ask yourself, is this the appropriate time? It is easy to get caught up in all the love hormones and fun date nights while your children are with the ex and forget to be present with your children’s reactions or comments (what they are not saying) about you, dad, or family. It might reflect in their school-work, their energy levels, etc. Check in. In what ways have they bounced back? In what ways are they suffering still? Giving yourself the time to consider their interests and state of healing will guide your timing for an introduction.
Consider how quality time from your child’s perspective changes after the other parent is gone. The amount of attention, love, nurture and support that the other parent gave when both of you were in the house was huge! Now, imagine that love (received from the other parent) completely gone for the child while he or she is with you. Your child experiences an energetic deficit. Half of the love, half of the “family” heart, and half of her happiness in life is no longer accessible as it was before. When you introduce a partner, from your child's point of view, you are essentially now taking love from your child and giving it to your new partner. Which from their perspective, leaves them with even less.
When introducing your partner, ensure the quality time spent with your child and your love will not be less, but it may take on a different form. Reassure him or her about the priority to show love and be available for your child and if it is relevant and true, the other parents' love will always be present and available too.
Security & Belonging
As a dove-tail from the above, it is always best to reassure your child of his or her safety, security, and sense of belonging no matter what people may come and go in life. As hard as this truth may sound it must be said eventually, nothing is permanent. Security and belonging come from knowing that love is all there is. To continue to assure your child of their belonging to you and your family by love is essential. Ambiguity and a sense of insecurity are natural consequences of broken families, and it is wise to create a strong sense of stability even amidst a time where they could perceive it as an “unknown” predicament.
The Broad Picture
Do you have a broader picture in mind? Your perfect mate that you are ready to introduce may be the best thing on the planet for you on an individual basis, and by that I mean from personality to personality. You two hit it off right away and you are solid! But now consider the broader picture and how it also includes roles.
The role of step-parent (father or mother essentially) as well as husband or wife, that is, if you are wanting to take it to that level. These roles may be a tough calling for your mate who is a smashing hit for you. But as a step-parent, the interaction between the children and how he or she takes to their budding personalities would be vital for how to “frame” and introduce your significant other. On the other side of that coin, is how your kids respond to your partner's personality as he or she plays the role of step-parent. Key qualities to spot is how do they express and receive support, kindness, love, affection, understanding, and patience with each other and in these roles.
Empower Your Children
Giving your children the ability to be heard and seen while introducing your partner is a powerful way to mature your children as well as help them heal. Letting them in on your process and giving them some influence in your decision communicates to them that you love them and are affected by their thoughts. On the other hand, completely disregarding their emotions and feelings for the sake of yours and your new partners is a fast way to cause more damage and less intimacy.
Include them in the process as much as you are comfortable. Allow them to speak openly about their feelings and validate them as often as possible. Leading them in a logical and linear thought process towards independent thinking and self-empowerment will continue to grow them and increase their confidence.
After considering my top five details and how they apply to your own life, you can gain clarity regarding when and how to introduce your new partner to your children. The bottom-line through all of this, is that you want to aim for your and your family’s happiness and overall feeling of enjoyment, safety, and love.