Consider the Children as You Recommit

By Patricia Skinner, MA, LPC

It’s been several years or more since the divorce, you have been dating someone for a while, and he or she might become your significant other. Where do the children fit into this new dream? How do you introduce them to the topic of a new partner in a way that addresses their best interests-and ultimately yours?
Each single-parent family is unique based on the children’s ages, personalities, adaptability, and where they are in the grief process. Other questions to ponder include: How long have you been leading a single family? What are the bonding patterns? What are everyone’s expectations?
Here are some general guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Make time your friend.
  • Take time to grieve for yourself and as a family.
  • Gradual changes are easier for people of all ages to handle.
  • Initial dating should be for short periods of time, such as an evening.
  • As the relationship continues, expect the children to ask repeated questions while they grow and become more aware.
  • The relationship between the new partner and children will take time to develop.
  • Wait until you both feel a deep sense of commitment before telling the children.
  • Have a comfortable ongoing relationship before including children in activities.
  • All children have fantasies that the parents will get back together.
  • Children need constant reassurance that they will always have their parents; no one will replace them.
  • Have no expectations other than the new partner focusing on establishing trust, respect, and friendship.
  • Remember, both of you are role-modeling a healthy relationship, so be clear about what messages you give and what behavior you show your children.
  • Be proactive. Get as much information and help as possible regarding a new relationship, its effects on children, and remarriage.
  • If you ask happy stepfamilies what most contributed to their success, they often say:

    TAKE TIME
    HAVE NO EXPECTATIONS
    BE PATIENT
    WHAT CHILDREN SEE, CHILDREN DO

Patricia Skinner, MA, LPC, has been a counselor since 1981. She sees clients regarding divorce coaching, anger management, relationship issues, and communication skills. Her expertise concerning parenting comes from teaching parenting classes for 25 years, including step-parenting and co-parenting after divorce classes. She can be reached at (303) 333-5596