‘My son doesn’t want to know anything about my new girlfriend. How do I involve her more in my life?’

Father: “My ex and I have been separated for two and a half years, on my initiative. After a difficult period of separation, in which my ex showed her difficulty with the divorce to our two children (10 and 14 years old), it is calmer. We both have a new home, just around the corner from each other, and have the children each half the time. Our youngest is having a hard time with the divorce. He goes to a child psychologist for compulsions. His school results and social life are going well. At the same time, he has a lot of trouble with being alone (he’s hardly wanted to sleep alone in recent years), and since I’ve been in a new relationship that has become more serious over the past year, I notice that he is getting worse. He doesn’t want to know anything about this woman. I now only see her on the days that he is not with me, and he indicates that he will only be ready for this in a few years. His older sister seems to have no problem with the changing situation, she is mainly busy with her own social life. I would like to involve my girlfriend more in my life and children. How do I do that wisely?”

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Go step by step

Zoe Rejaan: “On average, the first two years after a divorce are the hardest for children because of all the changes: moving house, less time with parents, new daily routines. Cherish the peace, especially since your son is still being treated by a psychologist.

“We know from research that not the amount, but the quality of parent-child contact helps children after a divorce. It is a pity if those moments of love and care already have to be dominated by a newly composed family.

“Create a safe setting to talk to your son. How does he feel about this new relationship? Is he perhaps still subconsciously hoping that his parents will get back together? I understand that you long for your new partner and children to be a happy whole, but for your son this may never be a nice whole again. That’s sad, but something to keep in mind.

“Given the low success rate of new relationships after a divorce, it is wise in any case to be cautious in introducing a new partner. Take it one step at a time until your son can handle it.”

Have a conversation with your son calmly

Tischa Neve: “Your son is having a hard time, so give him time. First try to start the conversation calmly and discover what is behind his behavior. This can be done in consultation with the child psychologist. Does he find it difficult to share his father? Does he feel bad for his mother? Does he not want to lose his place next to you in bed?

“Point out that it was a tough time, but luckily it is now a bit calmer. Tell them that there is someone in your life whom you love and who you would like to continue with, but that you understand that it is difficult for them. That you only want to do that in a way that’s okay for them too. You set the framework: ‘I would like to continue with this woman’, but within that you can give your children control: how can you calmly build that up together? Reassure them that there will always be times when you will be alone with your children and your girlfriend will not interfere in the upbringing.”