When the Kids Are Jealous
Kids are often jealous of their parent's friends, dates, and lovers. It's important for them to see that their parent has friends.
If a child is expressing jealousy, take a walk in his shoes. Is he only with his bioparent a limited amount of time? How old is the child? A child entering puberty and anticipating the fear and excitement of dating may have very strong reactions to seeing a parent being intimate with anyone, let alone someone he perceives as a stranger. This doesn't mean that you must always appear chaste and celibate, but keep the child's age in mind.
Don't Be Wicked
The kids are expressing jealousy—is there a special reason? Are they being cut out of the loop? Is there too much hanky-panky going on?
Sometimes meeting away from kids is the best dating solution, especially in the beginning and during stressful times. It's easier on kids, easier on you, and easier on the parent, who doesn't have to deal with jealousy or resentment from either side.
Let's talk about Tommy, who doesn't live with his dad, except for extended periods of time in the summer. Say you met his dad, Mike, in February. Life is cool; you and Mike hang out and have fun, and one day summer begins and it's…Custody Time! Be prepared for things to change. The child may resent you. Tommy came to see Daddy Mike, not you (and not your kids, if you have them), and Tommy's gonna fear the loss of dear old Dad. Here are some tips for jealousy:
- Don't be there the first night.
- Think before you flip out.
- Suggest a small, shared outing to begin. Keep it short, keep it light, make yourself a little bit scarce for a while so that parent and child can enjoy their reunion.
- If you're the bioparent, handle fear and resentment with directness: “It's not your fault that Mommy and I are divorced. I know you want us to get back together, but that is not going to happen. You cannot change that. Sue and I are good friends. She's not a replacement for your Mommy.”
- Encourage the parent not to apologize for having friends.
- Encourage the parent to insist that the kids must treat friends (that's you!) with respect and courtesy.
- Be an adult. Look below the belligerence to see the wounded child.
- Encourage the parent to reassure his kids by letting them spend more time together (yes, and you butt out! Spend the free time with your children, use it to get a massage or do something equally decadent.) It's good for kids to see adults care for themselves.
- If things are very tense and stressful, suggest counseling for the child and parent.
More on: Nontraditional Families
Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Stepparenting © 1998 by Ericka Lutz. 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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