- 4 mins
Co-Parenting When You Have Different Parenting Styles
It might be a little daunting to think about introducing your children to your new partner. When is the right time to make the introduction, what to call your partner, and where to do this? Here are a few recommendations might make it a little less anxiety-provoking.
If you plan to introduce your partner to your children, you could (and probably should) introduce this person via a phone call, videos, and general conversations before the meeting. Let your children know you plan to introduce them to a special friend. Ask them where they want to meet your partner and if they want to stay at your home or have a nice dinner out together.
There is no “right” time to introduce your children to your partner. The only thing I would suggest is to make sure you are serious about your partner and that they will be in your life for a while (at least). Studies have shown that young children should not be introduced to various partners. According to Lee & McLanahan (2015), family structure instability is negatively associated with a child’s wellbeing. If you feel your partner will be in your life for a substantial amount of time, and you feel that you want your children to meet this person, go with it.
I was introduced to my partner’s 7- and 12-years old boys. I wanted to keep the initial meeting as natural as possible, keeping in mind they had just transitioned from one home to another. With the added change of a new person in their dad’s life, I thought it would be best to give them a bit of space in the home before I arrived. I also arrived with pizzas, which is almost always a winner.
Take my example of introduction as an example again. It was pretty easy with one of my partner’s two boys during the initial and consequent meetings. He wanted to engage, and I love children, so we instantly became friends. The younger child took a bit longer to warm up to another person in his dad’s life. This is completely normal and almost expected. Give it time, and let the rapport build naturally. There is no “right” way to create an authentic relationship other than just giving it time. Children are adaptable, but they also have their personalities. I am happy to say that I feel a special connection with the two boys.
Label the relationship, but ensure your children understand they did nothing wrong. Children usually take on guilt quite easily. They might feel that they did something “wrong” for their parents to divorce or separate. We have to ensure that we let them know, repeatedly, that they didn’t do anything wrong, and separating if the relationship is not working, is also okay. You can label the relationship with your new partner as you see fit and according to your child’s age. If your child is still young, I recommend stating that your partner is a “special friend.” Perhaps “my partner” is an appropriate term if your child understands romantic relationships.
Although you might be broken up or separated from your ex, they are still your children’s other parent. Try and keep the conversations factual yet respectful. It is also important to not shift responsibility by stating “your mother” or “your dad,” but rather keep labeling your ex as you did when you were in a relationship with this person, such as “mommy will pick you up (day).” This way, you show your children that this person is not taking on a different role.
Your partner can always play a few Moshi nighttime stories or light meditation to your child. Click here for a beautiful meditation with ShiShi, a Panda Moshling, to help ease any anxieties. I installed the Moshi app on my partner’s one child’s phone, and I was a favorite when he found out I write for them.
Children are amazing – they will do their best to adapt to new situations. They are also more likely to enjoy spending time with new people than most adults who have been entirely “set in their ways” for a longer time. Enjoy the journey!
Lee, D., & McLanahan, S. (2015). Family Structure Transitions and Child Development: Instability, Selection, and Population Heterogeneity. American sociological review, 80(4), 738–763.