A new partner may be a significant change for your children, especially when you move in together and live as a blended family. Building a good foundation right from the start in your relationship with your partner’s kids is crucial.
Every family and situation is different and unique, but here are some tips to consider:
Take it slow. Don’t make it a big deal. Keep everything light and simple. Start small and take it slowly. For example, when you want to introduce your partner, start with going out as friends to somewhere neutral like a park. Don’t say, “You have met someone special,” because it may trigger anxiety and jealousy for them right at the start. Simply say you want to go out with a new friend. Let them discover your depth of relationship themselves slowly. Kids are smart, and they quickly figure it out. This approach allows kids to slowly absorb the change, accept your new partner, and adapt to new circumstances.
Be honest with your kids: while you are taking it slow and allowing your kids to observe you and your relationship and absorb it, when they ask about your relationship, be honest with them and explain your relationship clearly. When they ask, they are ready to hear your story and feel safe.
Talk to your kids and acknowledge their feelings. Constantly talk to your kids about their feelings. Don’t let assumptions and misunderstandings take place. Ask them how they feel, explain your relationship and what it means for you and for them, answer their questions openly and reassure them that you will always love, care and support them.
Let go of little things. Your relationship is more important in the health and happiness of your family, your kids, and you. It’s not worth sabotaging your relationships over trivial stuff, for example, making their bed. Give them time and slowly ask them to make their bed and follow house rules. Once they connect with you and you have earned love and respect, they will listen to you.
Earn respect, rather than force respect. Some parents make this mistake even with their own children by saying: “Respect your dad!” or “Have some respect for your mum!”. You earn respect by establishing rapport, connection, and reciprocity, even among adults. Earn respect by supporting them, listening to them, understanding them, and helping them address their needs.
Spend time together. Spending time doing activities together will create a better bond between your kids and your partner. For example, evening walks, going to a park, picnics, playing board games, lying on a beach, watching a movie in a cinema, etc.
Set boundaries. Setting healthy boundaries between your new partner and your kids is essential. This will help protect your kids and make them comfortable with the new situation. Communication is key in setting boundaries. Explain the reasons. Boundaries help individuals communicate their needs, expectations, and values in a relationship while respecting the boundaries of others. When setting boundaries, define your feelings and communicate them. Be assertive and direct, and ensure others understand your words. In expressing your feelings and boundaries, use an "I" statement rather than a "You" statement. For example, if your partner or child is playing loud music, rather than saying, "Your music is too loud and disturbing me", say, "I'm finding this music too loud; turn it down, please."
Be flexible. Just as you expect others to respect your boundaries, you should also respect theirs. Being flexible is important in recognising others’ needs. You may negotiate and compromise to reach a point that would work for all family members.
Above all, your own mental well-being is crucial in your new relationships. Having a good mind diet and daily mind practice will equip you to form your new blended family.
Read this article about mental health and fitness: How to keep your mind fit?
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Author: Nima Sedigh, Founder of Mind Practice