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How to introduce a new partner

It can be really tough for some kids when their parent starts dating someone new. If the child has already felt like they have had to fight for their parent’s attention, it can be even worse for them when the parent falls in love. There are things that parents can do to keep the focus on the child and introduce a new love as gently as possible.

The biggest change of all for children

Going through a separation as a family is a big change. It can be hard for the kids to adjust to all the new steps, and it’s important to give them the time and support they need to feel like they have control and structure in their lives. One of the biggest changes for many is when one of the parents starts a new relationship. The family life they have built will need to be re-evaluated to include a new adult, and perhaps even children from that adult. It’s important to provide reassurance and understanding as they navigate this new situation.

Provide a good start for your child with your new partner

You meeting someone is proof that you were ready for the next step. Children often find it easier to accept a new person once the separation has settled. Before you introduce your new love, it is therefore a good idea to consider where your children and coparent are mentally. Have your children settled? How sensitive is it for your coparent that you have met someone else?

Keep your focus on the children

Even if you are head over heels in love, the children need to feel that they are the focus in your life when you are together. They may still be struggling with feelings of loss after the separation, and if you are constantly busy with someone else those feelings can increase. If your child asks or suspects that you have met someone, you should confirm that it is true. Give the child the information they ask for, but don’t over-inform.

Be considerate

Once you have gone through the separation, the distance between you and your coparent will become greater and it can feel uncomfortable to have to consider the other parent. The benefit of the separation is the integrity and freedom to make your own decisions. From the child’s point of view, however, the relationship with your coparent is still important. It is therefore easier if you inform your ex before you introduce your new love to the child.

Your coparent’s reactions can affect the stability of the family, so it is beneficial for everyone to be considerate of each other. It also increases the chances for your new relationship to be harmonious. Nobody wants to live in the shadow of negative feelings from a new partner’s children or coparent. Telling your coparent first increases their feeling of control and protects the children from having to be the messenger or keep secrets.

Give your coparent som time to adjust to a new partner

Your coparent needs time to adjust to the fact that there is a new person in your life. That way, it will be easier for your ex to accept that you have moved on. However, giving your coparent and your children time to adjust doesn’t mean you should let their feelings dictate. A guideline when it is difficult to determine the right pace is to consider how your children are affected when you rush or wait. If you choose to let your new partner become part of your life, it can help your children’s transition if you regularly create moments alone with them, without your partner or siblings.

The bonus family

Research on how children are affected by living with step- or bonus parents does not give clear answers. Children who live with warm, kind adults generally thrive and do well. However, children living in families where they face criticism and lack of understanding are negatively impacted. So, the important thing is how you get along, not what kind of family you live in. Bonus parents who create warm relationships with the children can be a great asset for them. It can be about engagement and interests, practical support, wonderful relatives, or material resources. Of course step-parents who are jealous and treat the child as someone who does not belong have a negative impact.

Malin Bergström
Child psychologist