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Smart Parenting During and After Divorce: Introducing Your Child to Your New Partner (page 2)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on May 7, 2010

When Your Children Call Your New Partner Mom or Dad

Your kids might like your partner so much they call him or her a variation of Mom or Dad, which is great if the person treats the children like his or her own, and if your children have no real mommy or daddy who will take you to court for trying to interfere with their parental relationship.

In most instances it is simply not a good idea to encourage the children to refer to another parent figure as Mom or Dad when they already have a mother or father in their lives. On occasion, when parents are more emotionally well adjusted than I could ever be, there is no objection to a child referring to two parent figures as Mom or Dad. When this is the case, and everyone is happy, it is fine. If you know you will resent someone else being called Mom or Dad, do not agree to it.

Reasons to Take It Slow

One reason to take it very slow in having your children cozy up to your new partner is that often, the "second time around" relationship is just as bad as or worse than the first relationship you had, and you want to get away from that person too. That may be fine for you, but what if your kids like that person and the people who tag along with him or her? What happens then is that your children go through another round of sad separations, and ultimately they become mistrustful and suspicious of the next round of people you bring them into contact with. For kids, these separations can be as painful as the divorce from their mother or father.

Then there are the situations where you bring your children into contact with your new partner and they hate that person. What you have created in that circumstance is a pipeline of complaints that go from your children to the other parent, and that creates yet another set of problems.

Children of divorced parents often feel split loyalties between a new partner or parent figure and a biological parent. This is made worse when one of the biological parents is insecure or angry. It is very easy for children to pick up on, and as a result they try to please and soothe that parent by being critical of Mom or Dad's new boyfriend or girlfriend.

With all of the problems that are associated with bringing children into contact with new boyfriends and girlfriends, it is a wonder why people do it with such frequency. There are two main reasons: One is that when parents separate they yearn for the return of a "normal" life with a companion. In their desire to create that normal life, they make decisions too quickly or without thinking through all of the possibilities and often end up replacing one dysfunctional relationship with another. As adults we are entitled to do this until we get it right, but we should try to avoid exposing children to our dating disasters. Related to this is the second main reason—when a parent adopts the philosophy that "My kids and I come as a package deal. If you think you want to be with me, my kids have to approve." This is a perfectly reasonable philosophy, but it must be employed later rather than sooner. You should figure out whether the person is worth having your children evaluate them first.

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