Love After Bereavement: Children and Your New Partner
Introducing someone new to your children
As a parent, following the loss of a partner, you could one day find yourself in another relationship and facing the delicate task of introducing someone new to your children. It is understandable that you would be anxious about doing this and concerned that this could make them feel insecure. If there is a respectable distance since the loss of your partner it is hoped that by now your children are feeling confident in the knowledge that there is life after loss.
Every situation, however, is different and will need a unique dialogue, with 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.
Before introducing your children, it will help if you’ve had a few conversations with them about this new person in your life. If he or she is also widowed, you can explain that you have both been feeling lonely and missing having someone to share some of the things you enjoy doing. This could make the situation easier to understand.
Your children may think you’re trying to replace their missing parent
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 that this is not the case is an important step and must be done in a way that helps them to fully understand the situation. Letting them know there are times when you miss having someone to go to dinner with, or other adult outings, might make it easier for them to accept the situation.
Children of any age could feel threatened, angry and confused about your interest in someone new and it’s important to respect their feelings. They also need to understand that whilst you will always cherish the love you had for their mother/father, you’re starting to miss the adult companionship you once shared.
Concerns that you might forget their mother/father
It will no doubt be very important that your children, old or young, will warm to the person you’re introducing them to. It is possible, however, their initial reactions might harbour concerns that you will forget their deceased parent and that they, too, might become of secondary importance to you.
If you ensure, every step of the way, that no one could ever replace their missing parent, they will eventually come to terms with the idea of someone new in your life and theirs.
Moving on for the good of everyone
Taking things slowly and encouraging them to talk about anything that could be worrying them 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 it’s important you have a clear answer at the ready. Older children will hopefully understand that in certain situations we eventually move on if we can, for the good of everyone.
Taking care to reassure your children that you love them, and how important they are to you, will help create the understanding that you’re on their side and what you do with your life includes them, and they will always come first.
Getting together as two families
If the new person in your life also has children, it may be that 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. Some sort of treat like a meal out to a favourite 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 to be distracted when they are present. After all, your children could still be adjusting to the new person in your life.
Involving your family in dialogue concerning your relationship, as much as possible, 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. Letting them see your contentment should help to move the situation on and provide you, and them, with the knowledge that the future can bring fulfilment and lasting happiness for all.
This article is part of the ‘Love After Bereavement’ series.