So you’re a single mum, and you’ve found a new man. Yay. Life is good. But is it? You’re not alone if you’ve hit an unexpected hurdle and find yourself, head in hands, thinking: My kids can’t stand my new man, now what?
And you thought dating was the hard part!
Having been a single mother for ten years, I’ve given dating a whirl a few times and have met some guys I’ve hit it off with. One, my kids hated. The next one, I avoided introducing to my kids for a whole nine months, until the relationship fizzled out. The last seems to be accepted … so far.
I’m here to share my experiences and subsequent advice on what to do if your kids snub your new romance.
Note: Many women put off dating because they worry about how it will affect their kids. Yet, we need our cups filled too. For me, that comes from having a partner in my life. I’m not saying head out and find a man the minute your divorce comes through. But I am saying, you deserve a healthy, happy relationship, even though your kids might not see that straight away.
There are ways to pave the way so that your children will at least politely tolerate your new man, even if they don’t welcome him with open arms and lay a place at the family dinner table. Then, once you have established a level of acceptance, they may warm to him over time.
Here are my tips on what to do if your kids hate your new man.
Further reading: What nobody tells you about dating with kids.
If your child has snubbed your new guy, you might feel quite peeved. I know I did. You’re at the stage where you worship the ground he walks on, yet your child just can’t see it.
You might feel so happy and lusted up that you don’t want any negativity to ruin your new-found love bubble. But, if your kids don’t like your new man, you’re gonna have to face the music.
First step: Choose your time and talk to your child. Ask them how they feel about this new guy and why they feel it.
After all, unless you know what the problem is, you can’t try and fix it.
Who doesn’t want to be listened to when they’re trying to express their thoughts? I know I do!
So while letting your kids talk, make sure they see that you are not only “listening” but you’re also paying attention.
Hold their hand and give it a tap from time to time or do a little nod here and there. This will show them that what they’re saying is actually getting to you.
While letting your children talk, they’ll be feeling a wave of emotions. Let them be. Validate their feelings and allow them to express themselves without interruption.
My kids told me that they felt a lot better after getting things off their chest.
Even though you see your new guy a sexy beast and great kisser. Your kid’s won’t see it. They might see an old guy pawing their mum and it makes them uncomfortable. So it’s totally normal if your kids can’t stand your new man at first.
Imagine going back to your childhood and seeing your mum or dad with a new partner, how would you feel? Anger? Jealousy? Disgust? I doubt that you’ll be ecstatic.
Your kids feel the same. They’re probably feeling one of this emotions (or all of them!).
Once you see the situation through their eyes, you’ll find the right words to say to make them feel at ease.
Through time, your kids will probably come to like your new man (most of the time). But while your children are struggling to accept your new partner, it’s important to tell them why this person brings happiness into your life.
Opening up about your reasons can help your children see things from your point of view and how this relationship positively affects you.
I made it a point to tell my daughters that this guy makes me a better person and makes me want to be an even better mum.
Remember, they don’t know what being in a relationship feels like. So don’t expect them to immediately understand. After all, they’re just kids.
If you’re still asking, “I’ve done all those things but my kids still can’t stand my new man.” It’s time to open your heart and go deeper.
It’s only natural for your children to feel jealousy or anger at first. But make sure they don’t keep feeling that way.
After your kids have expressed their feelings about your new partner, it’s important that you say this to them.
“My love for him is different from the love I have for you.”
Make sure they understand that loving this new person will not make you love them less. Explain that there are many different kind of love. For example, how they love their best friend is different to how they love chocolate cookies, and different again to how they love their parents or their pets.
Explain that love is infinite and unending. There is not a small amount that needs to be shared appropriately. Quite the opposite, the more people we have to love and be loved by, the better.
This distinction is vital to ensure they don’t feel threatened or displaced.
For many kids, it just feels weird having this new guy in the picture. It makes them feel uncomfortable. This is definitely one of the reasons why my kids can’t stand my new man.
One of the most common reasons they feel uncomfortable is if you and your guy are getting intimate in front of them. Remember little eyes will be watching your every move. An affectionate back rub or peck on the cheek might feel natural to you … but it won’t be to them.
Or, it might be something more specific, like he sat in their dad’s old chair or comes to close to them.
It’s important to remember, your kid’s home is their sacred space and having a strange man there is akin to inviting an ogre to join you for dinner!
For this reason, do everything within your power to ensure your kids are comfortable around your new man. It is in this environment that bonds can begin to form.
To get your kids to like your new man, a winning strategy is to find something they both have in common.
This isn’t always as simple as it sounds!
With one partner, I racked my brains and eventually it was as easy as telling my daughter that he also had a daughter. This immediately made her feel a safe connection to him. I encouraged him to tell her about his own daughter. Then, slowly she started to see him as somebody’s father … not just a weird old guy mum lets into their home and has yucky cuddles with.
Now my girls are older, they judge my current partner on how happy he makes me, and that’s the end of it. For younger children, they need common ground to build their own bond with your partner.
Once you’ve convinced your kids to spend some time with your new guy, plan this time carefully as it’s a brilliant opportunity to create a bond.
It could be as simple as kicking a ball around the back garden or shooting hoops. Or something bigger, like a trip to an amusement park or the zoo where the kids are having so much fun that they forget to hate your new partner.
One guy I was seeing was a maths teacher and offered to help my eldest with her homework. The fact that he gave her some of the answers and got her grade up made him a huge hit!
If your children’s father is still in the picture, good for you!
But kidding aside, if this is the case for you, reassure your kids that this new guy will not replace their dad. Your little ones need to understand that they can maintain their relationship with their biological father while accepting your new man.
My daughter said that this was what they feared the most. So I calmly and carefully explained to them that different people play unique and meaningful roles in our lives.
Explain to your child that your new partner is an addition to the family, someone you care about deeply. But reiterate that their dad will always hold a special place in their heart and your life.
This reassurance can alleviate any fears of abandonment or replacement, allowing your kids to like your new man more comfortably.
I learned this the hard way – never force or pressure your kids to like your new man immediately. This will only make things worse.
I tried bringing my guy home every single day so they could quickly warm up to each other. I thought I was doing the right thing, but boy did it turn ugly.
Remember, building a strong, positive relationship takes time, and it’s important not to rush the process.
Let your children and your new partner get to know each other at their own pace. Allow the relationship to develop naturally.
My kids can’t stand my new man, how do I handle him? If you’re worrying about this, read on.
When your children don’t quite warm up to your new partner, make sure to be honest with your guy. Tell him that he’s not been well-received.
Let your guy know that your kids find it uncomfortable or difficult to have him around. Remember, saying this doesn’t mean you’re blaming him, pushing him away, or asking him to change. Tell him that you both need to put in some effort and be patient.
Based on my experience, most men understand (or try to understand) this kind of scenario. If he doesn’t understand, are you sure he’s good for you?
I know how much you can’t take your hands off each other during this stage of the relationship. Oh, the honeymoon phase!
But you can’t get cuddly and affectionate in front of your little ones when he is still a virtual strange to them.
Having some kid-free time gives you and your partner a chance to enjoy each other’s company freely. These times together can help you both unwind and ease some of the stress associated with your kids’ resistance.
Remember, as long as your kids are well taken care of, you’re not being a bad mother for making time for your new guy. So don’t feel guilty and know that you deserve this.
Yes, you want to spend plenty of time with your new guy. But it’s crucial to be considerate and avoid sleepovers until your kids are comfortable with the idea.
Your children need time to adapt and feel at ease with this new addition to their lives. Rushing into sleepovers can create unnecessary tension and unease. It’s better to let them get acquainted with your man first.
Before your first sleepover, have a proper talk with your kids. Ask them if they’re okay with it or if it makes them uncomfortable. If it’s the latter, then you’ll have to reschedule it until they’re ready.
With my current relationship, we didn’t have a sleepover until after six (LONG) months. Trust me, all the waiting was worth it!
If your new guy is willing to connect with your kids, it’s helpful to give him these pointers.
Slowing things down is the last thing you want to do when you’ve fallen head over heels in love with someone.
It might not seem like it, but doing this will make way for a more stable foundation and allow you to think about solutions.
Tell him that you’re not putting the relationship to a stop but taking a few steps back. You’ll still go on dates, see movies, and eat out, but not to the point that your time with the kids gets compromised.
Despite “slowing things down,” make sure your partner knows that you are committed to overcoming this hurdle with him. Always reassure your man that you’re still madly in love with him and that this is just a phase.
Not everyone is aware of these things, so it’s crucial to establish clear boundaries when your new guy is in your home with the kids, especially if you have daughters.
Remember, for them, he’s still a total stranger. So make sure he understands the expectations and limits within your family environment. Better yet, give him a brief orientation about do’s and don’ts when in your house.
I’m not saying that he should walk on eggshells around them. Tell your guy to be comfortable but not too much.
Look out for awkward moments (because there will be a lot). But don’t worry, when the time comes, these will just be memories that you will all laugh about.
Let’s face it, men need a little reassurance sometimes too. So, when you’re navigating the choppy waters of relationships, don’t forget to let your partner know you’re ready to tackle this storm together.
This kind of reassurance will inspire him and give him the determination to put in more effort with the kids.
Remember this: You’re not alone in this kid vs. partner showdown. Teamwork makes the dream work, my fellow mums.
So, involve your guy in the decision-making process. Two heads are better than one, and three heads (you, your partner, and the kid’s opinion) are even better!
One thing I’ve learned from my past relationships is that tough times can be revealing. How your partner responds during challenges can indicate whether he’s a keeper.
Is he supportive, understanding, and willing to cooperate in finding solutions?
If you answered yes, then that’s a green flag. A guy who is willing to overcome challenges like this for you (and with you) is definitely worth fighting for.
Besides, not all men are open to the idea of bonding with their partner’s kids. So if he’s committed to doing so, then you’ve struck gold because he’s a keeper.
Solving the problem ‘my kids can’t stand my new man’ is like trying to herd cats, so it requires a team effort.
First things first, have a heart-to-heart with your kiddos about your new squeeze. Let them know their feelings matter, and they’re not getting replaced.
Expressing your feelings is another vital aspect. Let your children know you value and respect your new partner. Just make sure they don’t think he’s auditioning for a role in “Dad: The Sequel.”
Keep routines and boundaries as stable as a penguin on ice, balancing your roles as a parent and partner. It’s a delicate dance, but you’ve got this.
Ultimately, the key to helping kids like a new man in your life lies in time. Give your kids the space they need to warm up to Mr. New Guy.
It’s like growing a friendship garden; you can’t rush the blooming, but when it happens, everyone will be happy and you can breathe a sigh of relief.
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