The process of divorce, no matter how amicable is difficult. Having a new love in your life soon after may represent a new beginning for you. You may have visions of how well your new beau will get along with the kids. However, your kids need time to adjust to the changes as a result of the divorce. Under the best of circumstances, children need at least one year to adjust before parents begin dating, say psychotherapists and divorce specialists M. Gary Neuman and Patricia Romanowsk in their book, “Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way.”
Need for Security
With the changes that come with divorce; seeing one parent less frequently, changing where your kids live, plus new schools and friends, it is normal for the kids to feel insecure and anxious. Since you are likely still the primary caregiver since the divorce, the kids will rely on you even more for emotional support, now. Introducing your new boyfriend at this early stage would likely increase your kids' level of anxiety.
Children of divorce hold on to the fantasy of parents reconciling. Dealing with the reality that you have a boyfriend will shatter this dream and may your kids to be resentful. Your kids likely have a sense of loyalty toward their father and may have concerns that your boyfriend may be a replacement. Your kids are likely to blame your new boyfriend for the breakup of the family, if he is introduced this soon after the divorce.
If your kids are concerned that your boyfriend will replace their father, they may develop fears of being abandoned by your ex-husband. They are likely feeling more possessive of you and will view your boyfriend as competition and a threat to the security of their relationship with you. This is especially true for kids between the ages of 5 and 10, according to psychotherapist and family therapist Constance Ahrons in “We're Still Family: What Grown Children Have to Say about Their Parents' Divorce.” Further if your kids develop a good relationship with your new boyfriend and the relationship ends, psychotherapists Neuman and Romanowski, children may again feel a sense of abandonment.
Minimizing the Impact
Most mental health clinicians suggest waiting until you know that your relationship with your boyfriend is serious and likely to be long term. So, it would be best to wait before introducing your kids to your new boyfriend. This will give you more time to see where the relationship is leading and for your kids to adjust to the divorce. If you do decide in the future that it is appropriate to introduce the kids to your boyfriend you should talk with them first and give them an opportunity to ask questions and express any concerns before and after meeting him.
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images