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Helping Your Kids Love Daddy’s Girlfriend

Photograph by ThinkStock

Perhaps one of the biggest fears of a divorced mom is to be displaced from her kids' hearts by her ex-husband's new partner. Every divorce is different and I suppose a woman who's been cheated on with the new woman will react differently than someone who took the lead in leaving the relationship.

One way or another, the big winners are the kids when all parties involved—exes and current partners—try to get along. As a child of divorce, I'm particularly in sync with how my children may feel about the whole thing.

I don't want them to think that by loving their stepdad they are somehow being disloyal to their father. I also don't want them to feel they shouldn't love or admire their dad's girlfriend because of their loyalty to me. The more caring adults they love and that love them back, the better. In fact when my youngest, now 10, recently drew a picture of her family and I saw it included four adults—two couples—I felt at peace.

I don't want them to think that by loving their stepdad they are somehow being disloyal to their father. I also don't want them to feel they shouldn't love or admire their dad's girlfriend because of their loyalty to me.

I grew up in a time when discussing my own parents' divorce at home was taboo. I had to pretend in front of my stepmother that no other woman had ever existed for my father before her. So to avoid those feelings of inadequacy in my children, at home we openly discuss—in terms they can grasp—relationships, divorce and how and why things are the way they are for our family.

As a mother, I feel it's in my hand to somehow convey to my girls that they have my full blessing to love their dad's significant other. For that reason, I'm proactive about it and even give my daughters tips to help them have smooth relationship with their stepmother. As a stepmom myself, I also know what it's like on that side of the fence.

I know that I cannot and should not control the kind of relationship my kids have with other people, but I can help them be empathetic and take her feelings into account when saying or doing certain things.

For example, I've explained to my daughters that a stepmom may feel hurt if her stepchild is always comparing her to their mami and falling short. Of course I hope they never utter the dreaded: "You're not my mom!" and have told them so. When they're at daddy's place, they need to abide by their rules, not mine.

I know that I cannot and should not control the kind of relationship my kids have with other people, but I can help them be empathetic and take her feelings into account when saying or doing certain things.

When it's Christmas or a special occasion, I've had my girls buy her or prepare a gift, just as they do for their dad. Just recently, it was my eldest, 13, who reminded me it's her dad's girfriend's birthday, and she wanted to get a card and a gift.

I was once a 23-year-old in a long-term relationship with an older man who had two kids. I was their father's partner. Those kids are now in their thirties and although their dad and I broke up many years ago, I remain friends with the sons. Their mom once wrote to me thanking me for that. I knew how hard it must have been for her to have to deal with the thought her kids loving me.

So I pay it forward.

Explore More: relationships, divorce, marriage, mamá a mamá, Latina Mom
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