Are you my new mummy? And other horror stories….

Meeting new partners can be a fraught issue but with careful and sensitive management and a bit of realism it does not have to be an explosive one.

The thought of children spending time with their parent and new partner can be extremely painful for the other parent. It helps to bear this is mind initially (put yourself in their shoes and think how you would feel if your children were spending time with another man and woman) although the main focus should be one what is best for the children involved.

My advice is to wait until the new relationship is stable and permanent before introducing new partners. People coming and going out of children’s lives can be confusing and, if they form attachments, painful.

Do it gradually and initially in neutral and fun environments like cafes or parks for short periods of time. Don’t force children to interact with a new partner (always counterproductive) but let them get used to a new person and develop their own interest/relationship.

Don’t tell lies about the relationship but don’t overload them with information either. Adult relationships can be complex and threatening for children. Limit the demonstrative stuff. Small children may feel neglected and it will be off putting for older children.

Make sure you have quality time alone with your children, even when they know your partner well. It is important for them to feel they have you to themselves sometimes.

Of course, real life often intervenes in the best laid plans and various parts of your life cannot be kept separate indefinitely. I would always advise that the other parent is informed about a meeting with a new partner, even though the response may not be what you wish. If you do the above, let the other parent know you are doing it and watch your child carefully for any discomfort or confusion, then the other parent cannot complain too much.

How you spend time with your children (and with whom) during contact is an exercise of parental responsibility and for each parent to decide when their children are with them. The Court will not make orders prohibiting children from meeting people during contact unless doing so would put the children at risk of significant harm.

New partners can prove to be a valuable and valued presence in children’s lives as long as the situation is handled carefully.  They can also enhance and, in some cases, improve contact.  With compassion, common sense and a good dose of realism you can’t go too far wrong.

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