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How to Introduce Your Toddler to a New Partner

Introducing your toddler to a new partner is a challenge, no question. Alicia F. Lieberman, author of THE EMOTIONAL LIFE OF THE TODDLER, shares helpful tips to make the introduction a little bit smoother. Remember, this is huge step and change for both you and your child. Do not rush him or her to make an emotional connection with your partner immediately.

Sometimes [a] divorce is intertwined with the presence of new partners in the parents’ lives. These partners may have children of their own who are of the same or different sex and age as the toddler. Circumstances vary greatly, and each situation has its own specific challenges and rewards for the child.

In spite of the diversity, general rules are worth keeping in mind. It is best not to rush toddlers into making a close emotional connection with a new partner and his or her children. Particularly if the adults’ relationship is new and still tentative, the pressure of bringing children into it too fast can strain it in unhealthy ways. Sometimes divorcing parents long to reconstitute a family and move swiftly into a new commitment, bringing the toddler into it. A gradual deepening of the connection is preferable because it protects the toddler from yet another loss if the new relationship does not work out.

Sometimes a new partner wants to become the child’s emotional parent. If the toddler’s own mother or father is not involved, this willingness to fill a parental role is of course a wonderful opportunity for the toddler. If, on the other hand, both parents are active in the child’s life, it is not a good idea to try to replace them. The stepparent docs not need to compete with the “other” parent and vice versa. Each has a valuable part to play in the child’s life.

Toddlers in divorced families fare best when the adults respect each other’s importance to the child. Toddlers are usually not confused by their relation to more than two parenting figures if the adults themselves are confident of their roles. Stepparents and their children can enrich toddlers’ lives, both directly and by being a source of emotional support and stability to the parents.

Are you worried about the introduction being awkward? Make sure you make your little one’s favorite treat to celebrate the new person in his or her life. Try this yummy chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Excerpted from The Emotional Life of the Toddler by Alicia F. Lieberman. Copyright © 1993, 2018 by Alicia F. Lieberman. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.

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