Switching from an ex-partner can be challenging, especially when children are involved. And introducing a new partner to the offspring can be even more difficult for some.
In 2019, a Pew Research Center study of 130 countries and territories showed that the US has the highest rate of children living in single-parent households in the world.
The results showed that 23 percent of US children under the age of 18 live with one parent and no other adults. Whereas the Census Bureau states that in 1968 85 percent of children lived with two parents.
The number of children living only with their father more than quadrupled between 1968 and 2020, from 0.8 million to 3.3 million (4.5%), although it is still small.
However, this form of housing may not be permanent if a parent finds a new spouse.
In a Reddit post, u/T hrowaway_Acc10 received more than 1,000 upvotes when the 33-year-old father explained how he sat down with his six-year-old daughter to ask her if she was okay with his date.
He said: “I’ve been seeing a woman for about six months and it’s been great. I’ve never felt happier, although I’m still guarded from past experiences, I’m really happy. She was dying to meet my daughter and I’ve already had my ex’s blessing.”
He explains that they “talk about everything together.” However, he has yet to tell her why he broke up with his mother.
He wrote: “I told her she can ask that question again when she’s older and I’ll answer honestly. I’m not going to portray her mother as a villain, although she tried to do that to me. She’s still her mom and she loves her mom despite the little time she spends with her. I won’t be the monster.”
It seems this dad is handling his previous breakup in the right way, according to family therapist and parenting expert Jennifer Kelman news weekit is best to keep it “short and simple” to avoid making young children “emotionally overwhelmed”.
What should you tell your children if you and your partner separate?
She said: “You can say something like, ‘Daddy and Mommy love you, and we’ve found that we’re better off as friends than married or in a relationship together, but always remember we love you and we’re here for you are always.”
While this doting dad calls his daughter “his world” and “best friend,” Jennifer reveals there’s a “downside” to sharing too much information with kids.
she said news week: “Children, of all ages, feel love and loyalty to both parents, so please be careful how you talk about your ex so you don’t force them into a room to make up their minds.
“Another disadvantage of sharing too much is that it puts the child in the role of the parent’s best friend, where you rely on your child to discuss all your feelings about moving on. You may want to find a friend or therapist to process these feelings so you don’t unnecessarily burden your child.”
How long parents should wait before introducing children to a new partner
A breakup doesn’t mean you have to spend the rest of your days alone. It’s good to get back on the dating scene, but it’s important not to rush things.
According to Betterrelationships.org, “You shouldn’t think about introducing a new partner until your children are used to the fact that you’re single.”
The website of the Mental Health and Family Wellbeing Service also advises parents to avoid “introducing their children to a potentially short-term partner; it will only confuse and frustrate them.”
Newsweek spoke to Ruth E. Freeman, the founder and president of Peace At Home Parenting Solutions, based in Storrs, Connecticut.
she said news week: “Introducing new partners into the family can be challenging. It helps when Dad remembers that he and his new partner are setting patterns with those first steps.
“Ultimately, when a new partner is about to become a stepparent, the process works best when the parents consider that that child didn’t choose that person, and the new partner didn’t necessarily choose the child.”
Tip number one from the parenting expert: ‘Remember to take it slow’
Ruth has suggested “going slow” and introducing a new partner as a “friend” at the beginning. She suggested they spend time together as a trio, gradually expanding visits.
she said news week: “It’s important for a new partner and a child to build their own relationship, and it may not all be as loving as it starts. It will help if the dad’s new partner understands a little bit of how a six-year-old’s brain works and what it’s like during this socio-emotional phase.”
“It will help if dad’s partner is genuinely interested in that child and open to learning about them and having fun with how it fits that particular child. Dad and his girlfriend may envision an ideal new family, but listening carefully and observing his daughter and doing things at a pace that is comfortable for her will go a long way.”
“Ultimately, if dad and his new partner want to start a stepfamily, they should keep in mind that dad remains the primary caregiver, including behavioral counseling, and that father-daughter alone time, couple alone time, and stepparent with stepchild alone time are all important.”
“It can work well, it just takes patience. Staying compassionate with yourself and each other’s true thoughts and feelings, rather than reaching for the ideal family scene, can make all the difference.”
If you have a similar family issue, let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org. We can ask experts for advice, and your story could be featured on Newsweek.