Children's relationships with their parents can change when they re-partner. Children who are used to having that parent to themselves have to adjust to sharing their parent with a new partner, possibly step children and maybe even a baby.
Children can feel that their relationship with that parent is threatened by new family members, as their parent makes an obvious effort to build relationships with them.
Kids need love and reassurance from you that no one will ever take their place. When children know that their relationship with their parent is not under threat, they are more likely to:
- Accept the new family
- Not feel the need to compete for love or attention
- Have a greater self worth
Children can feel very uncertain about your new relationship. Below are some common questions children ask when their parent re-partners:
- Can my step-parent tell me to do things and tell me off?
- Who decides about pocket money and treats?
- Who can I ask for what?
- Who signs my school forms?
- Who has to know what?
- Do I have to tell my step-parent where I am going, or can I just tell my mum or dad?
- Do I have to call my step-parent mum or dad?
If you have or are looking to re-partner it is important to address the above issues so children know where they stand.
Some ideas on how you can help your child deal with the different stages of re-partnering.
During the early stages of the relationship
When you are ready to move in together or get married
- Your child does not have to meet everyone you date
- When introducing your new partner take things slow. Keep the meetings short.
- Meet in a neutral locations eg. Park, cafe
- Give your child some background information on your new partner
- Give your new partner some background information on your child
- Avoid having your partner sleep over when the child is at home – this may be confronting for them.
Quick tips on strengthening your relationship with your children
- Remind them that they are really important in your life
- Tell them in advance
- Give them time to adjust
- Don’t involve the step-parent in the initial discussion
- Suggest that they talk to someone outside your family if they feel uncomfortable talking to you
- Assure them that they will be told about all major decisions.
Tips for helping step siblings adjust to each other
- Spend one on one time with your child
- Get your kids involved in planning your time together
- Do something your child will want to do
- Keep appointments with your child
- Don’t withhold your time together as a punishment for bad behaviour
- Schedule in time for long phone calls to catch up on what is happening.
- Write letters to your child, even if they are living with you so that they know you have been thinking of them
- Reinforce that you love them and how important they are to you
- Gradually introduce them
- Give them time alone so they can get to know each other
- Be patient
- Let them deal with their own problems
- Treat each child equally
- Be consistent with discipline
- Talk to the children, and help them express how they are feeling
- Negotiate what names will be used.
If you would like to know more or to book an appointment, please contact us at Armstrong Legal and talk to one of our specialist family law solicitors on 02 9261 4555.
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