Love After Bereavement: Children and Your New Partner
So when is the right time, after bereavement, to introduce a new partner to your children?
Every situation is different and demands a unique decision, the age of the children being fundamental. A mature son or daughter, who is also in a loving relationship, may be able to relate empathetically and actively encourage you to seek happiness with someone else.
A younger child may be confused and think the new person in your life is going to steal you away. They may also think you’re trying to replace their mother/father. Explaining this is not the case is an important step and must be done in a way that helps them fully understand the situation. If you let them know there are times when you miss having someone to go to dinner with, or other adult outings, it might help them to accept the situation.
Children of any age might feel threatened, angry and confused about your interest in someone new and it’s obviously important to respect their feelings. They also need to understand that you have need of friendship and whilst you still love their mother/father, you’re missing the adult companionship you once had.
If you ensure, every step of the way, that no one will ever replace their mother/father, they will hopefully begin to come to terms with the idea of someone new in your life and in theirs.
Taking things slowly and encouraging them to talk about anything they are worried about is the way to go: ‘What would mum/dad say if they thought you were going out with someone else?’ is a typical question, and we must be ready with a fitting answer. Older children will hopefully understand, even in dire situations we eventually move on if we can, for the good of everybody.
Constantly reassuring our children we love them, and how important they are, will help create the understanding that we’re on their side and what you do with your life includes them and they will always come first.
If your new partner also has children, it may be that all of the children are more interested in assessing each other rather than the new partner. Arranging a meeting when you can get together as two families might help younger children to understand they’re not alone in this situation. Arranging some sort of treat like a meal out to a favorite restaurant, or an outing providing a useful distraction like bowling, for example, will help them to think of the new family in a positive way.
One last thought. Meeting someone new and feeling romantic and euphoric about the idea of falling in love again can be quite exhilarating and can lead us to behave differently. Best avoided is being overly tactile with a new friend in front of the children, or allowing ourselves be too distracted in their company when the children are around.
Involving your family as much as possible with dialogue and down to earth conversation will help everyone to feel integrated. In time, your family will see how happy you are and will hopefully come to terms with the idea of someone new in your life and theirs, too.
This article is part of the ‘Love After Bereavement’ series.