I am a widower How do I tell my children I am in a new relationship?
Q. I am a widower with two young children. I met someone I want to marry, and we’ve been quietly dating for about a year. When and how do I tell the kids? Will they be OK with a new mother?
A. Telling the kids. Set aside a block of time when you will be free of distractions. Emotional news doesn’t mix well with hunger or sleepiness, so consider those factors when choosing a time. A comfortable spot in your home, perhaps where you read stories, is a better location than a public setting. Be matter-of-fact and explain that you are going to get married – don’t make it sound negotiable based on their reactions. They may respond that they want Mommy back; acknowledge their feelings. Explain that you will make sure they remember their mom. Let them know that all questions are OK to ask. This isn’t a one-time discussion, because they will continue to sort out their thoughts. Be ready to explain again, listen carefully.
Not a new mother. Clarify that your new wife is not a replacement for their mom. Rather than a new mother, they have a new family member who cares for them. Allow time for them to adjust to the relationship. They may, in time, feel comfortable acknowledging the relationship by adopting a term associated with motherhood. Start out slowly and let them use her first name, if that seems most comfortable. Emphasize that their maternal grandparents and other relatives always will be a part of their lives; your new wife’s family means more people to care about them, not people that you want them to love instead of others.
Dealing with change. Your children have experienced a loss that they will be processing throughout life. They may be concerned about losing you, as well, to this new relationship – or even to death. Keep this in mind and try to establish a daily schedule that is predictable. Regular family dinners, bedtime rituals and other opportunities for interaction will help them feel secure. Incorporate your fiancée into the family activities.
Keep in mind that adjustment takes time and patience: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” (Colossians 3:12)