My children are 6 and almost 8 years old. I have been divorced from their dad for over three years and have been with my new boyfriend for over three months. We are very much in love and already talking about getting married in the future. My kids met my boyfriend last week but even though he was pleasant with them, they were not very nice to him. What can I do to convince them that he's here to stay and they should try to get to know him?
Just because you have fallen in love with someone does not mean your children have, or even that they will. Getting to know a new person takes time. Here are some thoughts about how to gradually weave your new boyfriend into your children's lives.
Slow down. You have only known this man for three months. While it may feel like True Love, you are very much in the infatuation stage. That doesn't mean he isn't the one for you, but it is far too soon to know that for sure, and with children involved, too much is at stake to rush things.
Wait six months to introduce your boyfriend to your children. While that might seem like forever, consider the harm to your kids if they become attached to this man and, for reasons you cannot anticipate, things don't work out and he disappears. Build a relationship with your boyfriend that has weathered some storms before you bring your children into the mix.
Make first meetings relaxed and casual. Many parents find that their children do best when they introduce their new friend to their kids at a group gathering like a barbecue, where others are around to take the focus off getting to know each other. This will allow your children to develop a sense of familiarity with your boyfriend, rather than putting their interactions under a microscope.
Listen to your kids. If they complain about your boyfriend, don't shut them down with remarks like, "That's not very nice!" or "He's gonna be around, so get used to it!" Allowing them to express what they feel will pave the way for them to naturally form their own bond with your boyfriend. But remember -- don't start bringing them together until the two of you have been together for at least six months!
Understand what it means to your children that you're dating. Seeing you with someone other than their father will underscore for your kids the reality that their parents are really not getting back together. Make sure that they have had time to genuinely grieve the loss of the family they once knew before asking them to accept someone new in their lives.
Carefully guard one-on-one time with your kids. While you may want to have as much time as possible with your new beau, your children still need quality time alone with you. The less they see your boyfriend as a threat, the more they will come to accept him as part of their life, should you indeed start creating a life together down the road.
New love is exciting, and it is easy to believe that if you're happy, your kids will naturally be happy for you. But children are egocentric; you cannot expect them to override their own feelings, needs or wishes on your behalf. Take your time, build a solid relationship with your boyfriend, and slowly bring him into the fold.
Susan Stiffelman is the author of Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm and Connected. She is a family therapist, parent coach and internationally recognized speaker on all subjects related to children, teens and parenting.
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