It is important to consider the child and not your personal feelings when deciding whether or not to introduce the child to someone new. The parent should think about the best setting and reducing stress for the child.
The end of a parents’ relationship can be very stressful on children. Parent should do whatever is necessary to ensure that their child is not involved in their conflict including not fighting with each other when the child is present, not badmouthing the other parent to the child and making sure that the child knows that both parents love the child. Parents should discuss how to reduce the stress on the child by keeping things as normal as possible, considering counseling options and speaking with important people involved in their child’s life- teachers, religious figures, family members, friends, and parents of friends.
Besides the initial separations, a child can feel very stressed when blending a family. It is important to consider the child and not your personal feelings when deciding whether or not to introduce the child to someone new. The parent should think about the best setting and reducing stress for the child. If the child is in therapy, consider involving the therapist in the decision to introduce the child to a significant other.
I suggest that the significant other be introduced as a friend. During this introduction, remember that a child can be very perceptive. Therefore, avoid touching the other person, make it a friendly encounter and use first names. Depending on the age of the child, think about the location and the circumstances surrounding the meeting. Look at doing an activity, outside the house. Consider a public place such as a gaming center (Game Works or Dave and Busters) where the child will feel comfortable.
Don’t put pressure on the child to like the significant other. Let the child become acquainted with the significant other and let the child warm up on their own terms. Putting pressure on the situation with increase the level of stress for the child. Things to avoid include asking the child his or her opinion regarding the significant other or whether or not the encounter was fun.
It is important that the introduction phase not be too quick. It means that the significant other should not be there at every turn. It should be a more natural progression. Remember, it is not about the parent and significant other, it is about the child. So, allow the child to process feelings and adjusts in their own time. Do not move too quickly, including not moving in with the significant until the child has had time to adjust to the significant other.
When blending a family, it is important for the household to have the same rules for both sets of children. Besides rules, the household itself can be an important thing to consider. If the parent and significant are moving in together, consider a new house rather than moving into a house previously maintained by either the parent or significant other to avoid an imbalance of power.
If possible, talk to the other parent about introducing the child to the significant other. You don’t have to ask permission. You are informing the other parent to make sure that the other parent has notice in case the child brings it up so that the parent is not caught of guard. It allows the other parent to come to terms with the introduction and prepare to address any comments by the child.
Jason Stoffel is a family law practitioner in private practice since 2004. He is a partner in Roberts Stoffel Family Law Group , a Las Vegas, Nevada family law firm.
Amanda Roberts is a family law practitioner in private practice since 2005. She is a partner in Roberts Stoffel Family Law Group, a Las Vegas, Nevada family law firm.