How Do I Deal with My New Boyfriend’s Children?

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Hey CM,

Congratulations on finding a good match for you and creating a happy relationship! I’m grateful my courses helped.

I understand and appreciate your natural desire to step in and help with this huge adjustment for his family. I’d want to do the exact same thing. Here’s the rub, though—you can’t.

The children’s process surrounding their mother’s loss is theirs and theirs alone. The stages of grief will unfold in their own unique way for each of them. Their feelings about your new relationship—and even about you—are kinda none of your business (and that’s a good thing!)

Feelings are tricky buggers. In this case, you can’t soothe them, fix them, or change them. Don’t try to make them feel better, as that will bite you in the ass. Hard.

The best way to support everyone right now is by not trying to do anything besides showing up as your most authentic, compassionate, friendly self. The fact that you’re writing to me about this tells me you are a loving and caring person, so I think you’ll do great. Remember that public displays of affection with your boyfriend may be triggering to his kids at this time, so be mindful of that when you’re all together.

While you’re being so gentle and respectful, don’t inadvertently become a doormat. If anyone says anything inappropriate or rude to you, stand your ground kindly and with compassion, but also with firmness. And when it comes to your holidays, special moments, and dates with your new guy, don’t let them highjack your time with their feelings—again, their feelings are theirs, not yours to contend with.

I know it might not seem like it right now, but you don’t need anything from them: not validation, not reassurance, not approval. Be kind, add in a smidge of humor if that’s something you’re naturally already good at, and be open and available to become their friend when they signal that they’re ready for that friendship.

You can support your new boyfriend by letting him know you’re there by his side, regardless of his kids’ reactions, and you’ll do your very best to not take whatever they say or do (or not say or do) personally; if any negativity pops up, you’ll just let it roll off your back (and then take that shit to your most trusted girlfriend and kvetch until you feel better and it is truly off your back).

Good luck!