When is it okay to leave a child alone with a new partner?
With one-parent families on the rise — they make up 15 per cent of households in Australia — family dynamics are changing and new dilemmas are popping up where they hadn't before.
With news of children being harmed or injured while in the care of a parent's partner, it makes me wonder whether there is a particular point in a relationship when it's okay for a parent to leave their children in the care of their new partner, alone.
According to information provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2012 there were 961,000 one-parent families in the country. And a portion of those single mums and dads will no doubt want to get back on the market at one point or another and give love another red-hot go. But with that comes the balancing act between a child and a new partner and how to allow for their relationship with each other to grow, especially as the relationship becomes serious.
The advice for parents introducing their child or children to a new partner usually goes along the lines of take things slow, don't rush and talk to the children about the situation first. But allowing alone time can also be a must when it comes to developing that bond between a new partner and a child, so when should that occur?
One of my oldest friends was a single mother of two when she met her now-husband, who is also the main stay-at-home carer. Her partner and children developed their bond slowly, but at a certain point in their relationship, they realised that there would be alone time between her new partner and her children, especially as the children began to call him "Dad".
There's a huge element of trust and communication that comes into play when introducing a new person to the family, but allowing them time alone is a whole other level. Here's what to keep in mind if you, too, think it's time for your partner and children to bond alone.
- Keep the time to a minimum at first — no long trips away or anything like that. Perhaps the first time they're alone to bond together could be a trip to the cinemas or spending time at the park.
- If the children are at an age where they can talk about the situation, bring it up with them first and let them know they'll be spending the day alone with your partner.
- Make sure your partner is aware of any food allergies your child suffers from.
- Have an emergency plan should anything go wrong or should the partner need support during the bonding sessions.
- Keep the communication flowing. At some point in your relationship, especially as it becomes more serious, there is going to be a time that your partner will be alone with your child. Talk about what each of your expectations are within the relationship.
- Trust is key — if you don't feel ready to allow for alone bonding time, then don't push it.
How have you dealt with being a single parent and then welcoming a new partner into your child's life? Share your experiences in the comments section below.