Introducing children to a new partner
I google everything. Small day-to-day things but also big life event stuff. I always have my own view on how to deal with things but I like a bit of validation from those who have gone before.
This was no different when I did my research on introducing children to a new partner. I found hundreds of articles on how and when to do it. Keep it informal they said, do it on neutral ground, only do it when you know you are going to be together for a long time. All completely valid and helpful but very few talked about different approaches for different children. Everything I read seemed to suggest that children respond in the same way. Between us, Mr S and I had 4 children and knowing how different they are, I wasn’t convinced this was true.
Mr S agreed and we worked hard to understand what each child would feel and need so that we could work out the best way to introduce each other into our respective children’s lives. We took some of the recommendations we read but also went with our instincts and whilst we didn't get it absolutely right every time I think we did a pretty good job.
My son, Seb
Seb was 16; and before we began caring for my niece, it had just been the two of us for a long time. He might have been fairly mature and understanding of everything but he had experienced a lot of change in recent years and was now faced with even more.
I wasn't worried about telling him I’d met someone as he was always teasing me about being a single cat woman forever so I knew he would take it in his stride. I was just conscious of how he might feel having someone else around having been the ‘man of the house’ for so long.
It was just before Valentine’s Day when I asked if he had a valentine, hoping it would help me broach the subject naturally. Apparently he suspected someone was on the scene and thankfully he was really pleased and keen to meet him.
Seb and Mr S have a similar sense of humour and lots of things in common so I knew they would get on but Mr S made a real effort to make sure they hit it off well. He listened to my stories about Seb and asked questions about him so he could find his own common ground.
The first meeting was a very brief introduction and hello but the second went against most advice. We went for a meal which is apparently too formal and full on but we felt it would work for us. The three of us enjoy eating out so it was a chance to share some good food and conversation. We still eat out together lots now and it’s one of our favourite things to do. As I anticipated Seb and Mr S got on well and it was fairly smooth from there.
I have heard of situations where teenagers, boys in particular, can be resentful and protective when their mum meets a new partner so I recognise that we were very fortunate. I think being open and honest at the start; and making an effort to spend time together so they could get to know each other was a big factor in Seb accepting us.
I recently asked him if we could have done anything better or different and he said not so that will do for me!
My niece, Tilly
Nothing fazes Tilly - she's very sociable and self-confident so, on the face of it, introducing someone should be simple. Her situation means it had to be done very sensitively though.
Tilly’s birth parents aren’t around and I’m very conscious of introducing people into her life who she will become attached to. It’s really important that she has stability and that people are not in and out of her life. Mr S and I discussed Tilly’s situation early on and agreed that we were both absolutely committed to our relationship before we brought her into it.
They met at my house and I introduced Mr S as a friend. Because he has a similar aged daughter he could hold his own through rapid fire questions about LOL dolls and toy unboxing videos and he let her win at a board game so it was a positive first meeting.
Mr S gradually spent more time with us, on days out and at home, where he listened to what she had to say and showed an interest. He didn't try to buy her affection or be too full on but he subtly made a real effort - the night he helped me paint eggs at 11pm for Tilly’s school project (which I’d forgotten) went down particularly well!
Another consideration was Tilly’s fondness for titles - she likes to understand how people are related to her and to give them a label. She very quickly wanted to understand who Mr S was to her and he was prepared for that. Early on, he was Auntie’s friend, then (in time) boyfriend, and now we have said she can call him Uncle S if she wants to - she rarely does but I think the option to is enough to satisfy her.
Mr S’s daughter, Mia
Mia was 6 when we met. She remembers clearly when her parents lived together. She never asked for them to separate and most likely wanted her old life back. Mia was most affected by our relationship and whilst we have come a long way, we are still working hard to make sure she feels comfortable, happy and secure. Mr S had told me lots about Mia beforehand and we knew we needed to deal with this sensitively.
My first introduction to Mia was in a car park. It was a meeting point for a day out with Mr S’s family and friends. I was just a ‘family friend’ at that point but me being there was enough to upset Mia and it didn’t start well. I remember her shutting the window on me when I arrived and waved; and me being secretly impressed by how ballsy she was. After some negotiation, I went on the day out but stayed out of the way. The plan was to be present but not over bearing so Mia could see me in the company of her family which we hoped would give her some assurance.
After the initial meeting, Mia had lots of questions for Mr S. Despite us showing no affection towards each other, she presumed we were boyfriend and girlfriend although I don’t think she truly understood what that meant. She went from being upset, which was the last thing we wanted, to talking about having a step-mum! We think she probably felt quite confused at that point and I've questioned whether we should have tackled this one differently but, to be honest, I’m not sure how. I think the initial introduction was always going to be difficult.
Some might say, we should have delayed any further meetings but Mr S thought it would be just the same further down the line and that we needed to sensitively persevere. I gradually spent more time with him and the children; and my overriding memory of those first few months of getting to know Mia was how inconsistent things were. Some days she would ask for me to visit, we would play together and she would write notes saying she missed and loved me. Others, she was in tears at the idea of me being around, telling her dad she didn't like me. We understood that she had lots of confusing and conflicting emotions and just had to sit it out whilst giving her the time, patience and reassurance she needed.
There have been so many different stages in building a relationship with Mia. We have had some brilliant moments and some really tough ones so I think this deserves a post of its own in the future.
Mr S’s son, Teddy
Teddy was on that same day trip but was oblivious to me being there. He was 2 at the time and was, understandably, more interested in his day out. In fact, I don’t think he paid much attention to me being around for quite a while, which we saw as a positive as it obviously wasn't causing him any upset. There hasn't ever been a formal introduction between Teddy and I, and I think that’s fine. I was gradually on the scene more and more; and over time he seemed to realise that I was becoming a more permanent fixture in his life.
It helped that Teddy’s age meant he generally took things on face value. He didn’t have the same understanding as someone of Mia’s age and probably didn't feel conflicted like she might have. I was just someone who wanted to spend time with him and that was enough for him.
The only time he seemed unsure of anything was much later on, when we all moved in together. I think the unfamiliar environment and family set up made him a little cautious for a while but he soon settled in and feels right at home now!
That’s not to say we won’t come across new feelings and challenges when he’s older but I think we have set a really good foundation with Teddy.
As you can see, we dealt with each of the children differently. This is still the case now, whenever there is change, as they all respond in their own unique way.
Introducing each other was just the beginning. Next we introduced the children to each other and over time we started to carefully blend our lives. The last 12 months have been a massive learning curve - some days were plain sailing, others were incredibly difficult, all of which I will talk about in future blogs.
How did you introduce your children to a new partner? I’d love to hear about your experiences too.
Love Violet In The Middle x
*names have been changed to protect our children’s identities x