Children often need their parents more in the early days of a separation and can feel abandoned if you go out a lot or start dating other people. They can often appear quite disapproving, and can feel threatened by any new adult relationships. It is important that any changes to their lives start gradually; however they mustn’t feel that they can dictate what you can or cannot do.
It is probably better waiting for any new relationship to become more serious before introducing the person to your children. Children can get attached to new people quickly and introducing them to more casual partners could leave them open to another significant loss. Also, when you have a new relationship, make sure that it is safe for your children to be around them.
Introducing a new partner to your child can shatter any fantasy that they might have of their parents getting back together and ideally a new partner should be introduced sensitively over a period of time, starting with no more than an hour or so.
Children can be afraid that you will prefer being with your new partner to them and that they might lose you as well. They could react by being more emotionally dependent and possessive than before. You can listen to their feelings, reassure them that you would never leave them, and understand that their feelings of jealousy are normal in this situation.
Your new partner might also feel insecure and envious of the time, energy and money you spend with your child. Although you can try to reassure your new partner, it isn’t always possible to do this, you might then have to reconsider how important your new relationship is to you.
You might also have strong feelings about any new partner of your child’s other parent and there is potential for feelings of anger and jealousy to be stirred up. It’s important to remember to put your child first in this case.
You and your children will need time to adjust to the changes ahead and even if you think you might be ready to bring someone new into your life it doesn’t necessarily mean that your child will be ready. You’ll need to make sure that they have time to adjust to any new relationships.
If you have met someone and you’re thinking of living with them, it’s important that the role of step-parent is discussed; learning how to live together will take time and needs to be balanced with your child maintaining a relationship with their other parent. If your new partner already has a family, it can help to agree on house rules before moving in together.