Love After Bereavement: Children and Your New Partner
As a parent following the loss of a partner, you might one day find yourself in another relationship and facing the task of introducing someone new to your children. You might feel anxious about doing this and feel concerned that this news could make them feel insecure.
Every situation, however, 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 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, it might help them to accept the situation.
Children of any age could 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.
It will no doubt be very important to you, that your children – old or young – will warm to the person you are introducing to them. It is very likely, however, their initial reaction will be a concern 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 will ever replace their mother/father, and that they will always come first, hopefully they will 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 that in dire situations we eventually move on if we can, for the good of everybody.
Constantly reassuring our children that 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 the new man or woman 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. 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 to be 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.