We often hear about the “evil stepmother ” or the militaristic overly disciplinarian stepfather or the concern that parents will be replaced. A new partner, however, can make a positive impact on the family and may enhance the child’s life rather than detracting. For example:
- Making the parents happy in their new life so that they are better parents to their children.
- Giving an extended family to the children, with new cousins, aunts, uncles and even grandparents.
Bringing their own talents to the family, for example, if the partner plays an instrument or is an artist or teacher.
- Bringing new children into the family whether from the parent and new partner or from a new partner’s prior relationship. (Creating a blended family can be complicated, and professional guidance may be helpful).
- Providing another person to love and support the children.
In order to try to avoid conflict as they become part of the family, the new partner might wish to consider the following suggestions:
- Don’t tell the children what to do as if you are their parent
- Let the parents set the rules
- Support the parents in their parenting decisions
- Be available for the children but don’t force interactions on them
- Give the children time for the relationship between you to develop
- Don’t try to compete with the parent for the child’s affection.
- Keep communication between you and the other child parent open
Sometimes you may need a little help in working things out. Mediation provides the perfect opportunity for each person to be heard whether before or after separation or divorce. Child-inclusive mediation would allow the voice of the child, even from an early age, to be brought into the room so that whether you are an existing parent, a new partner, or a child, everyone has the support her or she needs to flourish within the new family structures.
Catherine Canadé, Esq.
Collaborative Attorney and Family and Divorce Mediator