Kids share their parents with new boyfriends & girlfriends, parents share their kids with their ex’s new lovers, and kids learn to have new stepsisters and stepbrothers. It’s all a very complicated business that is often not done very well. There are too many assumptions about how easy this is all supposed to work. This post is part 2 of the previous blog post about kids and divorce.
There are also too many opportunities for guilt tripping and manipulation. Mom makes the kids feel bad if they like Daddy’s new girlfriend. Dads feel left out when Mom finds a new boyfriend and moves along. Parents want to hear certain things from their kids about whats ok. Kids figure out what parents want to hear. Kids are told to keep secrets and lie to the other parent.
When there is anger, vengeance, rejection, betrayal and pain flying around all over the place, it is very rare that it doesn’t spill over onto the kids.
The antidote to all of this crazyness is truthfulness. Short & sweet statements that do not add to the kid’s burden. Like: “It’s hard for me to share you with Daddy’s new girlfriend. I’m not my best self when I think about her and I’m sorry my feelings slop over on to you. That’s not right.” No details about why you’re justified to feel that way.
Truth is the only path to trust. Trust is often what is destroyed by divorce. So truth about how complicated things are really matters for kids.
This diagram shows only one example of the complicatedness. The slashed lines are new relationships that require some measure of difficulty. Acknowledge the truth, that it might be hard for your 6 year old to share Daddy with your girlfriends’ seven year old. Learning to share is important and it can be confusing: “Why did you buy her a stuffed animal?”
If you have a teen don’t assume she’s as excited as you are to see your new lover. Respect a slow introduction process that gives her time to adjust. Don’t stop having one on one time with your kid. Don’t hide out in letting the new female take over the reins of parenting.
Your kid has a history with you. That history needs to be continued with new attention to the details of what interests your kid. The history with your new partner is just beginning and it needs a lot of time to develop. Don’t force it.
Most importantly don’t pretend, don’t make your kid your best friend and dump on them, respect your kids need your ex just as much as you don’t.