Handling your feelings towards your child’s new step-parent

For parents that have separated, although co-parenting together might have been a successful endeavour so far, there are always bound to be hurdles that get thrown your way from time to time. One key example of this is the involvement of a new step parent.

If your partner meets someone new and it gradually becomes serious then they may, at some point, want their new partner to become involved in your child’s life in the role of a step parent.

Fairy tales and the like have hardly been the greatest representatives of these figures, but the reality is that step parents obviously don’t always make the children wear rags and sweep cinders. Increasing your child’s network with kind and friendly adults could actually be a really positive thing, by helping them to mature into well-rounded adults.

However, having said that, it is perfectly normal for you to feel disconcerted by the presence of a new step parent. Regardless of whether your child still lives with you or predominately lives with your partner, this is bound to make you feel uncomfortable, unstable or possibly even threatened by this new figure in your child’s life.

This blog post will ease these concerns while providing some advice on the best ways in which you can approach the matter, in terms of communicating well with your partner and keeping your child happy, secure and calm.

Stay rational

There are, undoubtedly, going to be many reasons why you will find this transition a challenging one, and the fear of replacement (no matter how irrational it may be) is bound to be high up on the list. It’s important to know that feelings of fear or jealousy, though nonsensical, are not uncommon. The introduction of a new step parent in your child’s life could de-stable your sense of self-worth, or your confidence surrounding your relationship with your child.

But the key thing to keep in mind is this – absolutely no one can replace you in your child’s life.

You are your child’s parent and no one can take that away from you. Of course, you might feel threatened if your child grows to care for their step parent, but this will never challenge the bond that you have with your child.

These feelings of insecurity might actually be lessened if you get to know your ex’s new partner. It might comfort you to be able to bring some rationality to the situation, and you will, hopefully, be able to trust them over time.

If you aren’t the parent that the child lives with the majority of the time, your ex’s introduction of a new step partner in to their life is bound to feel disconcerting, and make you feel like your own relationship with your child (especially when you aren’t able to spend as much time as you would like with them) is imperfect.

This is an understandable fear, but it is one that you need to learn to cope with and put a stop to, quickly. Trust in the bond that you and your child have, and time will restore your confidence in the matter. Try your best not to let your jealousy or insecurities show to your child – instead, focus your energy on simply enjoying the time that you spend together.

Don’t be cruel about your ex or their new partner to your child

Although the devil on your shoulder might occasionally advocate this heat-of-the-moment response, it is never a good idea.

Firstly, consider how this kind of behaviour will impact your child. They don’t want to hear you mocking or criticising their new step parent. It inevitably puts them in the middle of an ‘us or them’ scenario, which will leave them feeling upset, confused and angry with you for making them feel like this.

Secondly, reacting in this way won’t help you either. Get to know your ex’s new partner so that you can create a relationship where you can work well together for the sake of your child.

Communicate with your child

Remember that the divorce has already put your child in a very challenging position, and this is one more difficult step on the road for them.

So help them to feel more comfortable with what is happening by, as mentioned above, keeping your behaviour civil and mature, and by taking the time to communicate with them.

Speak to them about their feelings, or anything that they may be confused about, in a calm, neutral environment. Make sure that they can always come to you or your ex with their problems, without feeling like they are going to be judged or pressured into changing these feelings as a result. Explain that, while this situation may be a new one for both of you, you will learn as a family how to make it work for you, and that both of their parents will always love them dearly.

You and your child’s co-parent can significantly help your child adapt to these new circumstances by creating clear routines, setting rules that are the same for each house, and writing a diary or weekly routine that helps the child understand where they’re going to be, and who with, on each day.

The main thing is that your child feels secure, confident in the love of both their parents, given set routines, and in possession of an important role within each family.

Communicate with your ex and their new partner, too

Try to get to know the new partner, and ensure that you always speak to them in a civil, respectful manner, gradually working towards achieving a sincere connection with them.

Establish clear boundaries so that everyone feels comfortable navigating this situation, and the three of you can lay the foundations for a solid co-parenting relationship.

Work together to agree on consistency across both households, particularly concerning rules and discipline, to present your child with a measured, united front.

Beyond rules, also try to create a dynamic where you feel comfortable discussing your feelings, any difficulties that you are facing or any frustrations that you may be having. But, always discuss these things in as positive a way as possible, in an open, honest and mature discussion, where you are all listening to what each other has to say.

Speak to your child about the situation in a neutral way

Don’t make your child feel like they can’t ever mention their step-parent in your presence.

Be kind (or at least neutral) about them both – focusing on your child’s experience will help you to feel calm about this. Don’t interrogate them about the partner or your ex. Instead, ask them about whether they had a good time with the two of them.

Remember that it is possible to take a positive approach to this scenario – your child is being cared for and supported by a large network of positive influences, in a very strong co-parenting relationship. This approach will, without a doubt, bring huge benefits to your child.

Don’t be afraid to ask for support

You’re bound to find this a challenge at moments, and that’s ok to admit. So don’t be afraid to seek support when you need it. Speak to friends or family who you can open up to. Get their advice, or just vent out all of your feelings.

If you’re feeling jealous, frustrated or haven’t quite gotten over the relationship yet, then ask these trusted people how you can overcome these feelings. Face your emotions while maintaining a positive front in front of your child, keeping their best interests at heart.

We hope that this blog provides some comfort, assurance and guidance if your partner is bringing their new partner into your child’s life.

If the situation is the reverse, however, and you would like your new long-term partner to take on the role of step parent for your child, in our next blog post we will be covering how you can approach this in the best way for your child, while keeping your partner’s mind (concerning their ongoing involvement in their child’s life) at ease.

Article Created By Josephine Walbank

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