At some point after your separation or divorce your kids may have some questions about any new romantic interests. Those that either you or your ex have begun to include in the family dynamic. You should be prepared to answer any concerns your children have about any new boyfriend or girlfriend you are seeing. But what if your kids ask you about your ex’s new love?
This may be a difficult subject if some feelings of pain and rejection continue to plague you after the breakup. It is crucial for your kids that you are able to respond to their queries, about this new person. Respond, by the way, does not mean rage and rant. There is no place for those reactions while talking with your children. Especially about this subject, no matter how righteous you feel or how much it hurts. They did not ask for this situation although they may question it.
Here are some ways to navigate through the choppy waters of your children’s wonderings:
Many times, the questions your kids may have are more about their place in their newly fragmented family after the breakup than about any specific issue regarding a romantic interest in either parents’ life. What they need is the knowledge that they continue to be of central important in your life and, hopefully, in their other parent’s life as well. Do not go into details that make everyone uncomfortable. Assure your kids that they still have two very loving parents who are committed to them, even if other relationships are not seeming to complicate the passage.
Sometimes your kids simply need a sympathetic ear as the changes are very unsettling for them. Give them a chance to unload their anxiety about the situation and remind them both parents love and cherish them. If they are unsure of what to do or say around your ex’s new love interest encourage them to be polite and to give things time. But if you hear things that honestly give you concerns about their happiness or safety consider approaching your ex with the information in a non-judgmental way. If that is impossible because of simmering anger or the chance of retribution think about connecting your child with a trusted adult who can approach the other parent with concerns. This might be a grandparent or other adult relative or a teacher or friend of the family.
If your relationship with your ex is on solid and respectful footing you might want to work with him or her to help your children become comfortable with and answer question about the new love interests of either parent. Work it out so that you and your ex can share the concerns the kids share with either of you. Look for answers together. You may even want to meet and get to know your ex’s new friend to get a feel for the kind of person he or she is and to discuss the personalities and needs of the children. If this approach is not possible immediately revisit the issue later after emotions have receded. Having all the important adults in your children’s lives on a somewhat level playing field, sharing information and respect, is ultimately best for all going forward.
When the situation is volatile be open to asking for professional help to answer your children’s questions and concerns. There will be changes in the days, weeks, months and years after your ex takes up a new love interest. Including the possibility of step and half siblings. There will be challenges of a greatly expanded family and the growth and maturation of your mutual children. Whenever your child has questions you can’t answer even with the help of your ex, counseling may be a solution to build a healthy and communicative extended family.