When a divorced parent starts seeing a new beau, children in the household can have a variety of reactions. An important part of maintaining a beneficial child custody arrangement is the ability of exes and new paramours to get along. Experts say there are several steps that can help parents reconcile their new love interests with the needs of their children.
First, both parents need to reinforce the fact that they both love and care for their children. Even if the kids are not living with the nuclear family full-time, parents can provide emotional support necessary for children to permit a new beau into the family structure. Reassure your children that they will be seeing both parents as frequently as the co-parenting agreement permits.
Children need to be allowed to express their feelings about their parents’ new partners. One woman said she took her child to a low-key Mexican restaurant at an off-hour so they could discuss his hang-ups with her new boyfriend. The woman and her close female friend fielded questions about the new boyfriend and allowed the boy to express his true feelings, some of which were hurtful; he told his mother that she had caused his father to leave, for example.
After the air was cleared, the woman set ground rules for interaction with the new man. Her son had previously said that he would never talk to the boyfriend, and he intended to chase him off. The woman insisted that her son at least act in a polite manner, even if he did not prefer the boyfriend’s company. She also asked her ex to explain that he was comfortable with the new man, hypothesizing that the boy was disapproving of the boyfriend simply out of loyalty.
After completing these steps, the boy’s relationship with his mother’s partner has greatly improved; he even allows the man to drive him to school on occasion! Child custody situations involving new partners can be difficult to navigate, but good communication can allow everyone to be comfortable.
Source: Huffington Post, “When kids dislike your new partner,” Christine Gallagher, April 3, 2013