Dear Barb

Dear Barb:

I am a recently divorced mother of a 12-year-old daughter. I work full time and attend university part time. I have recently begun dating a very nice gentleman. However my daughter does not like my boyfriend and does not want him coming into our home. Consequently, the only time I can see him is when my daughter visits her father. My question is, how can I get my daughter to accept my boyfriend as part of our lives?

Divorce is still difficult for anyone, even though it is so prevalent in today’s society. Perhaps it’s not that your daughter dislikes your boyfriend, as much as she dislikes the possible role he may be representing to her. She may still be grieving the loss of her father in the home and is not ready for someone else to fill that void. Moreover, 12-year-old girls have many of their own issues to cope with. It is a difficult age in regard to fitting in with your peers, boys, physical changes, let alone adding a family breakup to the picture.

Your initial role may be to help your daughter feel good about herself and her place in the family. The lines of communication between you and your daughter need to be open. It is important that she feel she can talk to you about anything, not only this issue, but other things that may come up in her life. I don’t know what her relationship is with her father, but I believe that will be pivotal in influencing whether she can accept another male into the family. If the relationship between you and her father was tumultuous, which I would assume it was as you are now divorced, she may fear another male coming in and disrupting her life with you. This may be especially true if her home life with you has been calm since her father left the home.

You may also want to look into finding a support group for children of divorce, or possibly a group where you could both go. Individual counselling is another option, but generally with young people support groups are most successful, as they can relate better to their peers.

Secondly, I would suggest you begin by encouraging brief visits between your daughter and your boyfriend. During these visits, I think it is important for you to include your daughter in all aspects of the visit. The time the three of you spend together should include participating in an activity, rather than just going out to dinner, or having your boyfriend come to your house, as under these conditions there is a lot of pressure to talk. Play a game of mini golf, go skating, skiing, or even bowling. These are activities which are fun, light-hearted and allow people to interact without too much intensity. Try not to allow her to feel that she is being pushed aside, or that she is less important to you than your boyfriend. She may already feel she’s lost her place with her father, since she no longer lives with him on a day to day basis. Therefore, she may be struggling to maintain her status within her relationship with you. As a result, over time she may see that your boyfriend is not a threat, but rather someone with whom she can have fun. Subsequently, she may finally be ready to accept him as a part of your life.

Lastly, I would suggest that you do not rush the relationship. Allow each person to find their comfort level. After all, the most important part of any relationship begins with a strong foundation. Perhaps in time your daughter will begin to realize that you are entitled to have a life, and that doing so does not take anything away from her relationship with you.

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