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February 19, 2018 - Welcome Guest!

Advice » Relationships

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When is the right time?

Question:

I'm having a moral issue. I have two children, one 5 and one 6. I have recently separated from their dad and have gotten into another relationship (now 7 months) and I don't know whether it is time for them and him to be together, sharing time with me. Although ultimately I'd like to be able to have a future with him, I'm not sure when I should incorporate the two sides of my life. I have thought of several reasons for the pros and cons because I don't want my children to have a harder time than necessary, but in the same breath, I have been told that if I am happy that it will make them happier. I guess I just need some insight.

When is it the right time to introduce a new man to my children? How will it affect them in the long run?

Vanna (25 year-old woman)

Answer:

Dear Vanna,

There are two issues here: when to tell your children and how to tell them. If this new relationship really becomes special for you, it is very important that you and this new man try not to make him into an instant father. He really has to earn that spot, if possible, on the merits of their relationship. The most he could hope for is a second Daddy slot, but he should be very happy with friend and mentor. Even if they learn to love him greatly or their biological Dad doesn't stay in their lives, a child's original parent will always have a special place in their hearts - one that a step-parent can never attain. It should be done gradually, allowing the relationship to develop naturally. Unfortunately, it will now have to be done more slowly than is natural because you have already met him and are in a relationship with him.

In regards as to when to introduce him to the kids, there is no magical time because children grow emotionally at very different rates. Another variable is how messy the divorce is. If Dad is still trying to win you back or tells his troubles to the kids, it pushes the time table back tremendously. People also weather traumas at very different rates so a lot depends on how it seems the kids are handling the divorce. The problem here is that often the children of divorce hide how they feel from their parents until about a year after the divorce. They often try and take care of the parents, so they stuff their feelings inside.

The common symptoms of children having difficulties with divorce include problems sleeping, isolation, temper problems, increased difficulties at school, or clinging behavior. These symptoms would indicate that they aren't ready, but they might not show up right away.

Having said that (and without knowing how your children are reacting to the divorce) I will say that in general, it takes about six months to two years for the normal grieving process to be complete. This, however, varies from situation to situation and from individual person to individual person. Throughout history, the most common time period for mourning has been a year. This is a pretty good benchmark. I would caution you to be flexible however, and tailor this to how your own children seem to be adjusting to the divorce. Talk with them and ask them questions about how they are doing. Introduce him to them gradually and appropriately. Let it develop slowly if possible, and always gauge how the kids react to him. This will keep you on track.

I really think that in some ways, there really is no good time to tell children that Mom and Dad are really not going to get back together. The reality is that children will always have a difficult adjustment with this, even though they have to go through it. It is natural, given the situation. They will probably still harbor the secret belief that you and their Dad will get back together, even if they like this new man. They will feel as though they are put in the middle, and may have mixed loyalties. This can often make them feel like a traitor if they accept this guy. Be ready for mixed signals from them.

The big variable here is how well you talk with them, and how safe they feel about talking with you without feeling they are being judged. It really isn't the first trauma that is so hard; it is how everyone reacts to a person who has had a trauma. If you know it will be an adjustment but have a positive attitude that traumas are part of life, they will probably do just fine. Take care and good luck.

Jef Gazley

This question was answered by Jef Gazley M.S. Jef has practiced psychotherapy for twenty-five years, specializing in Love Addiction, Hypnotherapy, Relationship Management, Dysfunctional Families, Co-Dependency, Professional Coaching, and Trauma Issues. He is a trained counselor in EMDR, NET, TFT, and Applied Kinesiology. He is dedicated to guiding individuals to achieving a life long commitment to mental health and relationship mastery. His private practice locations are Scottsdale and Tempe, Arizona. You can also visit Jef at the internettherapist, the first audiovisual mental health online counseling center on the net.

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