Are you a divorced mother getting remarried, or a widow with adult children into a romantic relationship or a widower with young children dating a woman who you plan to settle with?
You have enjoyed the romance, and the commitment between you and your present companion is steadily deepening. You have now reached the point where the two of you begin talking about how you will introduce your children to your companion?
If yes, then you are step-dating and you need to plan the transition that you and your children will have to go through when this new member joins the family.
You must plan meticulously as they say “Failure to plan is to plan to fail!”
Here’s a run through a few questions that need the answers to, before you plan to get together! They will help you to handle the complexities of the relationship amidst you, your partner and your children!
- How long should I wait before telling the children I am involved in a serious relationship?
There is no easy answer to this question. Remember, you are the expert on your own children. Take a moment to consider how your children, even adult children typically react to change. Are the children flexible and adaptable, slow to accept change, or highly resistant or reactive to any changes in their life and environment? Spend some time thinking of when your children last experienced a significant change in their lives. What approach did you use that helped each child adapt? Children need time to grieve the loss of their first family or loss of a parent. It takes approximately two years to complete the grieving cycle. So while you may be emotionally ready for a new relationship, your children may still be grieving.
- What issues should I consider before talking with the children?
The ages, stages of development; and children with special needs require thoughtful planning. Some parents think that babies and toddlers will not have any significant emotional reaction to having a new person enter their lives. In fact, the opposite is true; even very young babies can sense and react to changes. If your child has special needs is there a time when they should not be distracted by your happy news? Are there important tests or exams that they may already be worried about? For young children and those with cognitive challenges, think carefully about the words you will use to explain your relationship. Children have the strangest ability to misinterpret information. Some professionals advise that you should not consider remarrying until your children are adults. I do not agree with this at all.
- Do my adult children require special consideration?
In a word, YES!
Adult children definitely require special consideration. Some older offspring are not always happy when they find out their divorced or widowed parent is ‘dating’ and planning to remarry. Two adult children in one family may have entirely different reactions: one positive and supportive the other becomes angry and resistant. This creates additional stress for everyone. Adult children experience similar issues as do dependent children when it comes to step-families. However, they also raise issues that are different from those raised by younger children.
- We both have children, how should we handle the announcement?
If both of you have children, will you inform both sets at the same time?
If you tell one group before the other, are you inadvertently setting up a situation where some of the kids are ‘in the know’ before the others? Those who are told first may feel they are more important in the scheme of things in contrast to the other group. This may breed some resentment, feelings of inequality, and competition between the two groups at some point. Carefully consider the timing, location, and manner of your announcement. Each parent should inform their children on their own. This will empower the children to express their feelings openly and allow you to respond with understanding and empathy.
- Do I tell your former spouse or let him find out though the grapevine?
This really depends on your relationship with your former partner. If you are on friendly terms, it becomes less of an issue. However the children will inform your ‘Ex’ anyway, so it really depends how you would prefer they find out about your romance. If your former partner is still carrying a torch for you, expect some type of reaction: it may be dismay, anger, and grief. The manner in which you broach the subject with your Ex may also include planning how to prepare your children for his potential reaction.
- Are there any other special circumstances, I need to consider?
Children often fantasise that their parents will reunite. When they learn there is someone else in your life, they may be resentful, angry, dismayed. Your announcement may trigger a sense of grief and loss that their hopes and dreams for a reunion are shattered.
- There are some major changes in the near future should I still tell the children?
Timing is everything. Sensitivity to the underlying feelings associated with upcoming changes is critical.
If your children are already feeling insecure or uncertain, you may want to delay the announcement for a while. Try to understand what is worrying them.
- Is it too soon after the divorce or separation?
- Have the children had an opportunity to complete their grief work?
- Will the upcoming changes be significant, and will they challenge your children’s coping skills?
- If you have adult children or teenagers what events are happening in their lives that will need to be considered?
Enjoy your romance because once you change the status of your romantic relationship to that of the future life partner, you enter into unknown territory, and you will not have much time to reconstruct the things.
Slow down a bit in this relationship and take time to plan and get ready for the significant changes that will occur in your life.