Q: My ex-wife and I have been apart for 3 years. In that time, she has introduced our girls to about 4 different men. I’m concerned that she is not putting our kids’ interests ahead of her own. Our girls are 8 and 11. What do you think?
Dr. Jan says: Everything we do as parents is a model for our children’s future. They watch everything we do—and it registers. It’s human nature to find a new partner after a break-up, but kids need consistency in order to feel safe and secure. If you introduce multiple partners, your children will soon learn not to invest their feelings because relationships are transitory. They could very well take that into their own lives and have difficulty forming lasting relationships when they are older because they’ve never seen a long term relationship in their own lives.
Another important component to consider is if these men have children, as well. If your kids get close to them, then the parents break-up, the kids will now go through two more divorces—one with the boyfriend and another with his kids. Too much “leaving” can be deter a child’s ability to adjust.
My advice to your ex is to date when the kids are with you. Have all the fun she wants on her own time, but when the kids are around, her time is with them. When she meets someone whom she feels may become a permanent fixture, that’s when she should introduce the kids to him, and eventually to his kids. Not before, in the best interest of the kids.