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When your kids don’t like your new bae

S ingle parent dating is anything but stress-free. Not only is it hard to find the time to date, but as it’s often the case, children may have a different take on things. Your children are likely to have strong opinions about your choices, too. One of the most frequent advice-seeking correspondences we get are from single mothers who separated from relationships with fathers of their children, and now feel they are ready to re-commit themselves to new love. Often, many of them have to navigate children’s disapproval of the person they finally caught. Some children of widowed, divorced and separated parents expect their parents to either kiss and make up, or stay single forever.  For some time after the dissolution, they will likely maintain the fantasy that their parents may wake up one day and realize it’s all been a misunderstanding, and get back together. You and your ex might have fuelled that fantasy for a while, but then reality sets in.

What lies at the heart of the rejection may have nothing at all to do with your new partner, and of course, how old the children are matters. A toddler may be more receptive of the situation than a pre-teens going up. Still, it’s important to for you to understand where your kids are coming from.

Assess reasonability

What is it that they actually don’t like? What does he do? How does he treat the children? There could be an objective, completely justified reason why your children don’t like the new guy. If you find they have plausible reasons not to like him, you may need to reconsider being with your new partner.

Certainly, if they’re just picking on him, you may have to deal with that. Of course, you need to do so understanding where they come from.

It’s important to determine whether their dislike of your new boyfriend is for a good reason that you were genuinely blind to, or whether they need to realize that while they are your top priority, they don’t rule every decision you make.

Prioritise quality time with them

Kids are savvy enough to know that a parent’s dating relationship may take time and attention away from them, and the quickest way to rebel against that is to reject the person you’re dating. However, it’s also easy to get wrapped up in the first flush of early love. He’s on your mind all of the time. You’re thinking of your next date. It’s natural.

But after separation, it’s likely that your kids are being shuttled between two homes. They are not spending the same quantity of time with you as when the family was under one roof. If their parent passed away, it’s not unfair of them to believe you are all they have.

Consider whether your kids are getting the time with you that they deserve. Also remember that your kids don’t want to lose you too. Introducing another person they don’t know threatens the relationship they have with you. Never force that they like him. If he’s a good guy and likes children, their relationship will strengthen over time. He needs to win their trust over a period of time.

Allow for adequate time and healing

When it comes to divorce and separations, often parents never consult kids until that point of no return where they are simply informed of what’s happening. This is despite the fact that kids are the most affected by the often abrupt and messy end of the relationship, and the effects are likely to totally turn their little and inexperienced world up-side-down. The disappointment, anxiety and insecurity that come with the departure of their biological parent can have a severe effect on their little lives. Therefore, time and everything that happens within that time is of absolute importance. The fact that you may be over the separation or death of their biological parent, doesn’t mean they’re ready for a new figure in their home. Introducing a new partner can create further apprehension when kids aren’t sure just how it will affect them. So ask yourself, are you asking too much of the kids too soon?

Involve close family or friends

To make sure that your kids’ dislike of him is based on a good reason not to like your boyfriend, we recommend asking a couple of close friends or family members whether they have any concerns about him. If they do, then you need to pay close attention to whether this is really the right relationship for you.

Loyalty to the departed parent

Children are often unable to comprehend the full capacity of separation, divorce or death of their parent. They cannot understand and process the emotions that they are feeling. In their minds, their enjoyment of any time spent in your new boyfriend’s presence may cause them to feel disloyal to their dad. Dare we say there are grown adults who haven’t sorted through this dilemma themselves! With positive reinforcement from all of their parents, they will come to understand that accepting mom’s new boyfriend is not being disloyal to dad.

Address concerns with your boyfriend

As “mama-bear”, it’s your job to get out of your romantic cocoon and engage your boyfriend on your kids’ behaviour. He has to work with you. He needs to come clean, as an adult, on his plan of action to allay the fears as expressed by your kids.

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