Finding someone new to share your life with after a break-up is great. You’ve moved on, however hard it was, and now you’re ready to be in a relationship again. But what about your kids? How do you introduce your new partner to them and how do you ensure that everyone gets along?
The truth is, it won’t necessarily be quick and easy. But if you approach the situation carefully and thoughtfully, respecting everyone’s feelings, there’s every chance that bringing someone new into your family unit can be a positive and happy experience for everyone.
Think About Your Kids Point Of View
Introducing a new partner to your children will trigger a lot of emotions for them, which they won’t always explain to you. They have already dealt with your break-up and more change can be unsettling.
They may secretly be hoping that you and your ex will get back together one day. Seeing you start a new relationship will make them realize that’s unlikely. They might worry that you will love them less or that there won’t be room for them in your life any more.
Younger children, under 10 years old, may feel sad and confused. Children of any age can feel jealous, anxious, angry or threatened. They might perceive your new girlfriend as a rival for your attention and loyalty to their mother can make it difficult for them to immediately accept someone else into your lives.
Don’t punish them for bad behavior or acting out without fully understanding what’s behind it. Talk things through as much and as fully as you can and reassure them constantly. For some great communication tips, check out this piece of advice.
Take It Slowly When Introducing Your New Partner To Your Kids
One of the most important points when introducing a new partner to your children is to take things slowly. First of all, wait until you are certain that the relationship is a serious one. Don’t make the mistake of introducing your children to casual girlfriends; it will be unsettling for them to keep meeting new potential partners.
Keep your relationship to yourself for a while and see how things develop. Make sure that your new partner wants to become involved with your family. And ask yourself if you’re sure that she is likely to be a good fit for you all. You need to be unselfish here; don’t press ahead when you know, deep down, that a particular girlfriend isn’t going to be right for your children. If you’re not sure, introduce her to a couple of friends first and seek their honest opinion.
Talk It Over
Ideally the first person you should talk things over with will be your ex. Explain that you’ve met someone new and that you’d like the children to meet her at some point in the future. You don’t want your children to feel they have to keep something secret from their mother, particularly if it’s something they are likely to feel anxious about.
Try and discuss it calmly and listen to any fears your ex may have. Reassure her that you will take things slowly with the children and keep her updated on how they are dealing with it. Hopefully in return she will be able to give you honest feedback about how she feels they are coping.
As far as your children are concerned, introduce the idea gradually. Explain to them that you have a new girlfriend. Mention her from time to time and answer any questions they have. Then ask them if they’d like to meet her one day. If they’re resistant, leave it for a while, but continue to talk about her occasionally. Then ask them if they would come out with you and her. Let them choose the activity if possible, and do something fun, such as bowling, going on a picnic or to play at the park.
Keep The First Meeting Low-Key
Set a time limit for the first meeting. An hour or two is enough, even if everyone is having fun. In fact, leaving while things are going well makes it more likely that your children will want to go out with her again.
If she has children too, leave meeting them for another day. It’s fine for her to mention them, but introducing too many people all at once can feel quite chaotic and there’s a risk someone will feel overwhelmed or left out.
Make sure you do something casual and fun. A formal dinner where everyone has to sit still and behave well can be awkward and not particularly enjoyable. It’s better to let everyone get to know each other over a fun trip or while playing games at the park. Make sure things don’t get too competitive though, and look for signals that your children have had enough. Say goodbye to your new partner at the venue, avoiding physical contact at this stage, and go home with your children. This will allow them to relax and chat about her and what they thought on your journey home together.
Subsequent meetings should follow a similar pattern, building up to longer periods of time, but making sure you don’t overdo it. It’s important at this stage that your children look forward to the trips. Even if they’re not overly keen on being with your new partner, if they’re going to do something fun then hopefully they will still look forward to it.
For a few simple suggestions, check out this article on encouraging family bonding.
Listen To Your Children’s Concerns
Let your children talk freely about the new person in their lives and allow them to express exactly what they think, even if it’s not what you want to hear. If you tell them they’re wrong or tell them off, there’s a risk they’ll stop confiding in you.
Don’t ask them if they like her; it’s better to ask if they had fun and what they’d like to do next time. Ask them if they feel comfortable and safe with her but otherwise don’t fish for compliments.
Take on board what they’re saying and see if there’s anything you or your new girlfriend can do to help them adjust. Make sure they know that you’re considering their feelings and that they have input into the situation.
Remember, they may actively dislike her to start with. Trust and affection are built over time and they may have many concerns which aren’t immediately apparent to you. Don’t panic. As things progress they are likely to come to appreciate and accept her if you proceed kindly and thoughtfully.
Make sure you still spend as much quality time with your children as you did before. You don’t need to go out; time spent at home with them is fine, so long as you are focused on them and communicating with them. They need to know that your love for them hasn’t changed.
Bringing Your New Girlfriend Into Your Family Home
You’ve introduced your new girlfriend to your kids, now you’d like her to come to your home. Again, start slowly with this. A meal is an ideal first introduction with a brief play session before or after, depending on the age of the children. But keep it fairly short and once your girlfriend has left spend some quality time with your children so that they can chat over anything they want.
As things progress, visits can get longer, but stay sensitive to your children’s feelings and make sure they don’t feel invaded or pushed out. Even when your girlfriend is there, there should still be time for you and them to be together.
When you think your children are ready for your girlfriend to stay the night, talk things through with them first. Set ground rules with both them and her, such as locked doors, wearing appropriate clothing, privacy and time in the bathroom. Try hard not to embarrass anyone and keep displays of affection in front of your children to a minimum.
Hopefully your children will accept your new partner into your lives and come to enjoy her company. As things become more routine, make sure you discuss what is expected of everyone. For example, discipline when you’re not around and how much of a parenting role she will be taking on. It’s easier to set rules at the beginning before habits are established.
It can be a big ask for your children to allow someone new into their lives and at times it will be hard work for all concerned. Everyone will learn a little more about themselves during the process. With kindness, thoughtfulness and generosity, even difficult situations can resolve themselves and a family unit expanded to include one more.
Ultimately, for everyone to have someone else to love and be loved by is a wonderful thing. It really is worth the effort to add a new person to your family and learning to accept and like someone new will be a great attribute for your kids to have.
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You’ve survived the break-up, the children are finally settling into their new routines and it looks as though life might be on an even keel at last. Then, suddenly the bombshell drops. Your ex has a new bow. And now you’re going to be dealing with your ex and her new partner. In an instant everything changes. You thought things were on the up and up, but suddenly you fell back to rock bottom.
This guy won’t just be in your ex’s life, he’ll be in your children’s lives, in your marital home and sleeping in your old bed. He’ll take over everything you used to own. He’ll be relaxing in your chair, cooking in your kitchen, eating food from your cupboard, smiling at your ex and listening to your children tell him about their day. Not surprisingly, dealing with your ex and her new partner will likely stir one of the most common emotions in life after divorce – anger.
Initially, it will be a huge shock. Even if you thought you were prepared for it, when your ex announces she has a new man in her life, you’re likely going to be consumed by the news. You’ll be resentful, jealous, or angry. And, you’ll be worried about the impact this guy will have on your kids.
Take A Deep Breath
Take some much needed time to adjust to the news. Don’t lose your cool. And don’t say the first thing that comes into your head. The truth of the matter is, no matter hard it is to accept, your ex was inevitably going to find someone new and start a new relationship. Keep calm. Focus on your own wellbeing and that of your kids as much as you can.
Think things through and make a list of your priorities, then you have a better chance of having a calm and productive conversation with your ex. You’ll want to know whether your children know about the new man, when they’ll be meeting him, if they haven’t already, how they are feeling, whether he’ll be moving in, or how often they’ll be in his company and a little about him. Try to push aside that image of him enjoying breakfast at your table and crawling between the sheets with your ex. Stick to practical matters. Remember, your ex loves your children and will most likely be looking out for them and doing what she believes is best for them. Even if you vehemently disagree, try to be realistic. You’re all in the process of moving on and creating news lives, and a certain amount of flexibility will be needed to keep peace. One day, it will be her turn to deal with the new woman in your life and handing her children over to you and some other woman.
Look After Your Mental Health
Be kind but firm with yourself. After the first few days of rage and self-pity, or obsessing about the injustice of it all, you’ll need to start to bury those feelings. It won’t be easy, but you need to understand that negative emotions can have a powerful effect on you physically and psycholgically.
Likewise positive emotions can affect you deeply too, so concentrate on promoting positive thoughts. If you find yourself regularly drawn to dwelling on the changes, purposely steer your thoughts to something happier. Distract yourself. Pour yourself into something you’ve been thinking about doing, or a meeting with friends or even a work project. Distract yourself from these cyclical anxious thoughts. Tell yourself, I’m not going to think about that right now, and then don’t. Focus, focus, focus – on you, and your kids.
This will be hard and you’ll keep dwelling and worrying about the same things, over and over again. But as time goes by you’ll find it easier to push negative thoughts aside. Try not to imagine his new place in your family’s life.
Don’t let anxieties about your relationship with your kids take over. Being anxious about your place in their lives is natural. You’ll wonder if they’ll like him more. He’ll no doubt spend more time with them than you if he lives with them. They’ll tell him things and he’ll give them advice. They’ll have fantastic trips together. He’ll get to do all the things that you thought you’d be doing as they grow up. Stop.
Remind yourself, they love you. You’re their dad and however big a presence he is in their lives, he cannot replace you. If they love him, that’s a good thing. It doesn’t mean they love you any less. It means they’re comfortable and happy with the people in their lives, which is how it should be. If you’re honest, you know that you wouldn’t want them going home to someone whom they don’t want to be around.
If things get too much for you, find someone to talk to. This could be a sympathetic friend, a family member or, if you’re really struggling, a trained counsellor. Just make sure that the person you’re talking to is giving you good advice. Friends are great for sounding off at, but it won’t be helpful to spend time with someone who is ready to label your ex as toxic. You’re looking for kindness but honesty. Sympathy is great, but a good friend will help you accept what you cannot change and won’t let you wallow in bitterness.
Dealing With Your Ex and Her New Partner
After you’ve got over the initial shock, make sure that you keep the channels of communication open so you can deal with your ex and her new partner. You’ll want a certain amount of information about her new partner if he’s going to be spending time with your children. You’ll need to know whether he’s moving in or how often he’ll be seeing them. Keep it civil. If things get heated you’ll miss the opportunity to find out what you want to know. And your input is more likely to be heard if you make your case calmly.
Stick to your existing routines and implement any changes cautiously. Everyone’s priority should be the kids and how they’re coping with the new situation. This article gives an idea of how to sensitively introduce a new partner into your children’s lives – and how not to.
First, know that you don’t have to meet this new guy if you really can’t face it. But, getting to know someone a little can help stop your imagination from running wild. And, it would be useful if you can pick up the children from him if your ex can’t make it or have a phone conversation with him to make arrangements for the weekend.
If you do decide to meet him, make it somewhere neutral at first. Try hard to be polite and approachable. If you find him aloof or less than friendly, stick to your guns and be the better man. Don’t steam in and start trying to lay down rules as soon as you meet him. Start with more general terms; you should at least both be able to agree that you want your children to feel happy and settled. It would be more appropriate to leave detailed rules to a meeting with your ex at another time. Then at least you can say that you have met him and given him a chance.
Over time, things should ease up and become a little more comfortable between you and he. Keep the tone of any meeting professional and try and let the children see that you are able to speak to him without animosity. If you can be civil to each other, as well as easy going and helpful it will make everyone’s lives easier.
How You Can Help Your Kids
Your children will be going through a major change in their lives when your ex finds a new partner. They will suddenly be having to share their mother with someone else and may well have to adjust to a new person living in their home.
Make sure you’re not dismissive when you speak to them about him, however hard it is. Younger children in particular may look to see how you respond to him and pick up on your feelings. It won’t help if you manoeuvre them into feeling negative about him, it will simply give them anxiety and make their lives less happy. And if they do get on well with him, they may feel guilty about it.
Your role is to be a rock for them. Reassure them that nothing will change their relationship with you, he won’t be replacing you and you will always be there for them. And then make sure you are, as often as you can be. Don’t be tempted to indulge them with treats and gifts; what they really need is quality time with you. This doesn’t have to be trips out or vacations, quality time is simply time when you are connecting with each other, over meals, shared books, games or movies for example. Concentrate on giving them a relaxed, pleasant time with you. Let them talk about him if they want to, and try and put your own feelings aside for their sakes. It won’t be easy, but if you manage it you really will be a great dad.
Throughout this difficult time, remember to look after yourself. Remind yourself that there are still good things ahead for you and that this will pass. Focus on building strong, healthy and happy relationships with your children and on creating a good life for yourself instead of focusing on dealing with your ex and her new partner. These are your priorities now, and negative emotions have no place with you.
This is without a doubt one of the hardest things you’ll ever have to do. Seeing your children accepting a new man into their lives and reacting with good grace can feel impossible at times. But persevere. You may be filled with negative emotions, but put every ounce of effort into putting the negativity aside while you’re with your children. In the end, this will help you too; by getting into the habit of behaving in a positive and easy going manner, you have a good chance of raising your own mood and being able to cope well with the change. As time goes by, the new situation will become easier and more comfortable for everyone and you’ll feel happier about the future as it becomes clearer that although your ex has a new man in her life, your place in your children’s lives will never be in doubt.
Life is unfair, at times overwhelmingly so. Two years ago, my friend David’s life imploded when his wife threw him out and moved in her boyfriend, a nineteen-year-old boy she met while working part-time at the grocery store.
Another Dad Blindsided by Divorce
David had to leave the family home and his two children, aged 9 and 7, and move into a tiny studio apartment, which was all he could afford once he had paid the mortgage, child support and a contribution towards the household bills.
He worked hard all day only to come home to an empty room, while a stranger, working only part-time himself, got to live in the spacious, comfortable family home with David’s wife and children. Children the boyfriend had no interest in and made no particular effort to connect with.
David understood that it was right for the children to live with their mother, who was their primary caregiver and as a part-time worker was able to be around for them before and after school. But still, the helpless feeling that life is unfair was crippling to him for a while.
Now, two years down the line, he has put his life back together again in a way that has impressed all who know him.
Talking to him about it, I know that he is far from being alone in going through this situation. The tips he shared can help anyone find their way and build a happier future, despite the pain when life is unfair. It’s not an easy path, but he showed me that it is possible to get through the darkest of times and find happiness again.
In sharing his process, I hope that others might find hope as they face the future and start rebuilding their lives.
Building A Positive Life Even When Life Is Unfair
Picking yourself up and putting your life back together again is never going to be simple or pain-free. But if you keep on trying, day after day, things will get better. It is possible to take a terrible situation and shape it into something positive. Remember, things are always changing, and it is a great skill to be adaptable enough to deal with changes and be stronger because of them.
Below are the areas that David focused on, with some tips to help you get the most out of them.
Look After Your Health
It’s very easy to forget self-care when you’re in mental and emotional pain. But don’t. A healthy body will help you cope better with psychological trauma.
Physical exercise is known to lift the mood and release chemicals into the brain and help you feel better. Even if you’re not a runner, just start walking regularly. Make yourself a priority now; you are the one who has to take charge and look after yourself. You may not feel like it, but if you force yourself to get out there, walk somewhere green if you can and do it regularly, both your body and mind will benefit
Don’t ruin the good work by eating poorly. You know what’s good for you. You may feel like eating a family-size pizza and a whole tub of Ben & Jerry’s but don’t. You deserve better. Again, be strict with yourself and don’t let things slide. Good health is a fundamental part of feeling more positive.
When it comes to alcohol, try not to over-indulge. Alcohol is a known depressant. Any temporary relief will be far outweighed by longer-term negatives. If you’re feeling down, it’s very easy to slide into over-consumption. Break the drinking habit and look after your body instead. Your ex might have treated you badly, but make sure you treat yourself well.
Get enough sleep. Don’t slump on the sofa in front of a mediocre movie or all-night sport. Lack of sleep has a detrimental effect on our feelings; regular good quality sleep will give you the best chance of feeling positive.
Train Your Thoughts
Early on in a separation, it is tough to stop thinking about the situation you find yourself in. All your hopes and dreams that have been shattered, the anger you may have, the frustration at the way you’ve been treated and the helplessness you feel at your position.
This is all completely natural, and of course, you do need to think things through. Life is unfair, but don’t let yourself obsess endlessly. If you’re tired of going over the same issues again and again, then try and think of more positive things for a while instead.
Spend some time asking yourself what you are grateful for and what you have to look forward to. It might not be much right now, but something as simple as connecting with a friend or going to see a game. Alternatively, visualize a place where you are happy or somewhere you’d like to visit one day. Spend some time thinking about those things, including all the small details.
Get into the habit of pushing away the negative thoughts when you have them. Tell yourself you’ve dwelled on the problems and frustrations for long enough, now you’re putting them away for a while, and you will deliberately think about something positive instead. . As psychologist Thomas A. Richards, Ph.D. puts it, “If you pay attention to the darkness, you will never find the light.”
This takes a while to become a habit, but if you keep doing it, it becomes easier, and eventually, your mind will look for the positives itself.
With little or no spare cash, it might seem impossible to indulge yourself. But even a simple, low-key treat can give you a bit of a lift. Plus it will leave you less time to mope around dwelling on a situation that probably can’t be changed by you.
Hobbies and pastimes
If you’ve got a hobby or a favorite pastime, chances are it took a back seat once you had a family. Now is the time to resurrect it. Be it fishing, photography or running, you probably still have the equipment somewhere, so dig it out and reconnect with the pleasure it once gave you.
Invite a friend or two round and make a simple meal. It doesn’t have to be elaborate; the point is more the company they’ll bring. Good friends always leave you feeling better than you did before. If you’ve lost touch over the years, now is the chance to catch up and expand the circle of people you enjoy spending time with.
A good book
Remember books? Unlike a screen, they offer complete relaxation and the chance to escape into another world. Visit the library or ask friends for recommendations. If you’re feeling particularly low, look for funny or uplifting stories. Some doctors are even prescribing books these days for those with mild depression.
Walk, cycle or go for a drive. Head for somewhere with natural beauty such as the beach, lake or mountains, or explore a city. Don’t give yourself a chance to dwell on negative emotions; keep moving if you have to, but just enjoy the change of scenery. It might be an effort to start with, but by the time you return home, you should be feeling more positive.
Learn something new
Is there something you always thought you’d enjoy but never had the time to try? Do a bit of online research and see if you can find some interesting podcasts about it. There are lots of things you can start at a basic level very cheaply, at least to see if you like it.
If you have a gym membership, take full advantage. Try the extras that you’ve never got around to before. If you’re not a gym member, go for a swim at the local pool. Physical fitness and exertion really do help with mental health and good sleep.
Put some real effort into being a good friend. After you have kids, friendships can dwindle. Now is the time to reconnect. You don’t need expensive nights out; a couple of hours here and there is enough. A beer and a chat will do wonders for your spirits. It’s important to remember to be a good friend though. While your friends will sympathize with your plight and be happy to listen to your woes, you can’t expect them to do that time after time. Have a moan, then put it aside and talk about other things. Make sure you ask them about their lives: what’s going on with them, what’s causing them stress, what they might need from you. And try and have fun. That way, they’ll be more than happy to hear from you again. And you never know, if you try hard enough you might actually have fun.
Making Peace is Part of Co-parenting
However hard it is, try and make some sort of peace with your ex. This isn’t just for the sake of your children, although that’s a big part of it. It will also help you, even if it doesn’t feel like it at first. The situation won’t change through your anger and irritation. Wasting time and energy being difficult or nurturing loathing will have a negative effect on you.
You cannot change what has happened or the position you are in, so try and aim for acceptance. Anger will eat away at you and make moving on so much harder. Try and be civil and as easy going as you can. You may find that your ex becomes more reasonable too and that you’re better able to co-parent your kids when your first concern is them rather than scoring points and obsessing over petty details.
Focus on what really matters; your children first, and then your own life. Refuse to allow negativity in. Again, it will be difficult at first, possibly the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do, but do it for the kids, and do it for yourself.
Spending Time With Your Kids
Try and plan in advance what you’ll be doing with your children. Allow for plenty of downtime when you can just hang out together, play and catch up with their lives. Often the memories you’ll return to when the kids aren’t around are the times when you were just chatting or watching a movie together.
If money is tight, look for free activities. There are plenty of suggestions online, particularly on local websites. Look for seasonal lists, like articles on summer fun, to find lots of inexpensive ideas that work year-round.
Keep things positive when you’re with the kids. Don’t be on a downer, don’t make them feel guilty when it’s time to go and try not to let them form an impression that you’ll be sitting around feeling sad when they’re not there. And don’t ever denigrate your ex to them. They love both their parents, and they won’t want to feel conflicted. Ultimately, they’ll work out for themselves what sort of person each of you is.
Make sure you’re the best dad you can be and keep your negative emotions well away from your time with them.
Look To The Future
You don’t need to do this too soon after a traumatic break-up, but the day will come when you want to start thinking about your future. To start with it may seem very bleak, but it really won’t always be this way.
Ask yourself where you would like to be in five years’ time, in ten years’ time. Look at the steps you need to take to get yourself there. Keep it realistic; you won’t be able to magically gain custody of your children, but you can certainly build a good relationship with them. You might have professional ambitions, and it might even be a good time to make changes in your career. Or you might want to move house or find a new partner. Just thinking about the life you want can be encouraging, and there is no reason you can’t build that life and find happiness again.
Rolling Up This Divorce Advice for Men with Kids
Getting through this isn’t easy. You’ll no doubt feel hurt, alone and miserable. You’ll probably feel angry and frustrated. That’s all part of the process. But be firm with yourself; you’re not going to feel this way forever, and you shouldn’t wallow in misery more than you can help.
Be strict with yourself. Make yourself do the things you know deep down will benefit you. To start with, you’ll be going through the motions and often it will be a tremendous effort. But as time goes by you’ll adjust and you’ll start finding pleasure in life again. If things start to overwhelm you, imagine you are advising a friend who is in your situation. It is often so much easier to give advice to a friend than follow it yourself. But be firm with yourself. You’re the best friend you have right now, and deep down you know what’s likely to help you.
Build the best relationship you can with your children in the time you have together. Remind yourself that you’re a primary parent and no-one can replace you. Eventually, your children will be at an age where they can decide who to spend time with. Work on being the sort of dad they want to hang out with. Someone who is happy, energized, and with an interesting and fulfilling life.
If you’ve been hurt enough to hit bottom, please don’t despair. Give yourself the care and kindness you deserve, and things will turn themselves around. Change is hard, but future happiness is always possible.
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