Introducing Your New Significant Other to Your Children
Take your time getting to know someone before you jump into another marriage or serious relationship. You have to keep in mind that when children are involved things are not so easy. If you are thinking about settling down with someone who argues with you a lot and has no patience with children, you are going to have a very tough time maneuvering through the normal issues of raising a blended family. If you know that you are really in love and do not mind constant conflict, this could be a good choice for you. I just know that being in a nurturing environment now with my third husband has made it one million times easier to have a life.
When you feel you have made a good choice and are ready to move on to the next step, there are several things you can do. If you have young children, under the age of 14, bribery works to get things off to a good start.
Here are a few good ways to introduce your prospective husband or significant other to your children:
- Invite him for dinner at your home but make sure he brings your children gifts of something relatively forbidden (like candy) as well as a desired toy.
- Plan to have dinner together at some kid-friendly restaurant, and definitely let them have dessert at his request.
- Have him come over for an evening to watch cartoons or play video games.
- Take a trip to the zoo or some other favorite kid hangout.
Let your children get to know him in small doses until they begin to ask about him on their own. Patience now can be a great asset later.
When you introduce a new person to a child the child is always going to be cautious. When you introduce a boyfriend, your child will sense a difference in the relationship and may feel threatened. There are definitely things your significant friend should not do the first time he meets your children. The same things apply when you meet his kids, if he has any.
Statistically, 50 percent of all second marriages end in divorce. This is not a good statistic.
Here are several things to warn your boyfriend about when he first meets your children:
- Avoid trying to show any immediate signs of affection. Even an enthusiastic high five can be greeted by a suspicious icy stare.
- Do not call any child over the age of two by any condescending names. If you call a child a baby you might as well expect to set back your cause by several points.
- Never try to be overly fatherly. Even very young children have loyalty to their biological father, even when that father is no longer in the picture. Take things slowly and give the child time to adjust.
- Never discipline the child in a harsh manner, particularly if it appears to contradict the methods used in the household. A new man in the house has to earn his status in the eyes of the child. If the child is a nasty little heathen let his mother handle it. He is just testing you anyway.
- Don't argue about anything with the mother in front of the children. A child is very leery of new people and will see even minor bickering as a threat. When trust has been established you are free to go at it as any normal couple would do.
- Don't be overly affectionate with the mother when the children are around. The children may still have fantasies of their biological parents getting together. Too much in-their-face smooching will make them feel edged out of the relationship. They'll react by acting out to gain more attention.
Reading the Reactions
When I first got together with my husband we looked for every opportunity to slobber over each other. We had been best friends for more than eight years, so when the passion hit it was volcanic. Inevitably we would be caught kissing by my youngest, who would literally get between us. She wasn't trying to break it up—she wanted to be kissed too. Even the dog would get in the middle of things. I guess they were happy to see me so happy.
The Fierce Tug of Loyalty
My son, on the other hand, was not so sure at first. He liked my husband a lot but was fiercely loyal to his own father. He was a little older and tended to be very protective. If he caught us kissing or holding hands he would give us a funny look. Not quite disapproving but very unnerving. We did our best to play it cool, which helped him and my husband develop a bond that worked for them.
Everyone Reacts in His Own Way
Each child adjusts to a new relationship in his or her own way. In any situation it is best to give the new relationships time to grow at a pace that works for each person involved. You can't force harmony. At first, when you begin a new relationship involving your children and a new man in your life, expect everyone to be at odds. You are likely to be excited about starting a new life while your children will be desperately trying to cling to the old. It will be a little crazy for a while, but with patience, understanding, and a lot of love, it can work out just fine.
More on: Nontraditional Families
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Motherhood © 1999 by Deborah Levine Herman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
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