One of the challenges we have as singles is how to deal with children in a relationship, whether those children are ours or those of our mates. It’s a delicate, sensitive issue for lots of parents, but one we have to address because our children deserve to see what healthy relationships look like. We have to be sensitive to our children’s needs and cautious about whom they are exposed to, but we also want them to see what life is like inside of a happy, committed relationship. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it especially when 48.5% of African American children are growing up in a single parent household (U.S. Census Bureau, Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support.) We can change these numbers for the next generation if we develop strong healthy relationships that our children can be a part of. Let’s consider some ideas on how to blend families.
When do I introduce my child to my man/woman?
This is a difficult question with no patented answer for every relationship. Each relationship will be different and each situation for children will be different. I would offer that it’s fair to say young children do not need to meet everyone you date. If there is not a serious relationship there, then it’s probably not the right time. However, it is equally important not to wait too late to introduce a child to someone once you are getting serious. The child needs to develop a relationship with this person if this person is going to become a permanent part of their life. There’s a bond and a level of respect which has to develop. You also want to give them an opportunity to love each other. That doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not fair to a child to spring someone on them a month before the wedding. Relationships are built on love and trust. Give them an opportunity to do this and you will appreciate the results after the wedding.
Over-communicate…to all parties
Sometimes when families are blending, people feel like they lose their place in one’s life. A little girl may have felt like she was Daddy’s girl, and now this woman is trying to replace her. A young boy has been told he was the “man of the house” but now Mom has a new man of the house. I think it’s important to communicate to children they are not losing anything with mom or dad’s new relationship. They are gaining the wisdom, love and trust of another person who wants to help them be the best they can be, just like their parents want for them. The other person has to show they are sincere in their relationship with the child, but the confirmation of the parent reinforces this is a good thing for everyone.
It’s also important to communicate to your man or woman, that they are the love of your life and your children do not and cannot take the place of your boo. I have heard multiple times that adults should “get it” and the children in blended families are the ones that need reinforcing. Adults are more mature and should understand the situation, but often times a parent can make another adult feel like they aren’t in this together when it comes to children. I understand that we have to protect children at all costs. At the same time, I should not do a disservice to my relationship (which I expect to become a marriage) by making my mate feel less than adequate to be around my child. There’s a balance in a serious, committed relationship where a parent needs to make everyone become a priority.
Children have the right to experience happiness
I know some parents who say they will not get married until after their children are adults. By doing this, you are essentially telling your child that no other person is good enough to be around them. You are inadvertently teaching the child the institution of marriage is not a place of growth and happiness, it’s a place which is not worthy of them. Children deserve to see you happy. Children deserve to be a part of that happiness. They also deserve to see healthy marriages. Those same children will one day become adults and they need examples of what both parents in a functional two-parent household should look like to reflect on when they chose their mates.
This is one of those rare topics where there are no perfect, iron-clad answers. That said, it’s a topic that almost half of the children in Black families in America have to deal with. We can’t run away from it. Five out of six of the custodial parents in single black families are mothers (U.S. Census Bureau, Custodial Mothers and Fathers and Their Child Support.) We have to take action to bring families back together. We must have fathers back in the homes. One thing I can tell you for sure is that it won’t happen for our children and our children’s children unless they see us with the capability of having happy, loving, blessed, God-fearing homes.
The only way to change the family tree is to start today. As I mentioned, I’m a single dad, but I’m going to show my daughters through my relationship with my future wife that I know how to love, honor and respect a woman. When their time comes to become serious with someone, I hope they can look back and appreciate what they saw in my relationship as an example to them to make good choices. Ladies, and especially men…I hope you want the same for your children.
BMWK – when is the right time to introduce your children to a person you’re dating? It is important to provide healthy relationship examples to your children, but not all singles will re-marry or get into long term relationships. So, what are the different ways that those examples can be provided to children?