Building relationships with children who aren’t biologically our own is often a challenge. It can be really hard to know where to start and how to get it right.
Balancing genuine interest with not wanting to appear too eager can take some careful manoeuvring. Children of course, are masters at sensing if an adult is trying too hard.
Read on for some tips on how to manage everyone’s needs in the early days.
The advice from professionals is to not rush into forming relationships too quickly. It’s important to take things slowly, don’t force it and not expect everyone to play happy families too soon.
It takes time for everyone to get to know each other and sort out how individual personalities will mesh.
What makes a big difference is the quality of the relationship between the new couple.
Being close and united influences how children perceive the adults. If there is insecurity, arguments or inconsistency the kids are likely pick up on this.
United couples are stronger and give an impression of solidarity and confidence.
Go away – That’s my parent!
Some kids view new partners as a threat and become jealous of the time and attention not being focused on them.
For new partners, respecting the relationship between children and their biological parent is vital.
Can’t I come too?
There are times when the new partner won’t be included in the rest of the family’s plans, which of course can be hurtful. But what’s important is to remember that a parent’s primary relationship in the early years is with their children. This is one of the cardinal rules of sound parenting, but it often gets overlooked in the heady excitement of new relationships.
Put a lid on any feelings of jealousy, it’s destructive and will sap energy.
Get a room won’t you?
Kids can feel very uncomfortable about overt displays of affection around them. It can pay to be a little discrete. Negotiation, talking, being honest and understanding everyone’s feelings makes a big difference.
Unresolved hurt and bitterness can require professional help to be overcome. New partners need to avoid taking on a counselling role. This is best left to experts who have the benefit of objectivity and professional expertise to deal with this issue.
Avoid criticism, especially of the absent parent.
This can force kids into feeling a need to take sides and having to defend them. Seeing children as individuals rather than a group can also help.