Theme   You love him more!
Category   Relationship with others

Justine wants you to organize a movie night at home like you always do. However, when she sees you sit next to your new partner, she gets angry and quickly sits between you and your partner.

Real Life Situation

Mom loves him more than me…

As families are experiencing changes, integrating a newcomer in the family is becoming a common reality. For instance, a single mother or a divorced parent may wish to share his or her life with a new partner, they may even wish to have a child together, or a half-sibling may decide to join the reconstituted family. Although these situations are filled with a lot of happy moments, they also involve a lot of changes that can be hard for a young child to understand and accept.

The arrival of a new partner in the life of a young child's parent makes him realize that he is no longer his parent's center of attention and affection. Until then, the child was the only "object of love" of the parent (he was his parent's center of attention and they were spending a lot of time together). The new partner is therefore perceived by the young child as a rival, someone who takes away a part of the attention and affection he used to have from his parent (for instance, the parent wants to spend more time with his or her partner, take care of him or her…)

As a result, the child, driven by a sense of loss, will start noticing all the little affectionate gestures his parent will do toward his or her new partner (and these gestures are quite frequent at the beginning of a relationship!); he feels more and more threatened as he is becoming aware that his parent is no longer solely dedicated to him. For instance, if a young child sees his mother sit beside her new partner and kiss him, the child is often inclined to believe that his parent's quantity of love cannot be expanded and therefore, there won't be any love left for him. The situation becomes even more difficult when the arrival of a new partner disrupts the child's routine - this is likely to create a sense of insecurity, or when the new partner is not accepted by the child's other parent - the child then experiences a loyalty conflict; so to him, to stay loyal to his other parent, he feels he must also reject his parent's new partner.

Then come frustration, anger, fear of being left alone, jealousy and sadness. To cope with these overwhelming emotions, the child may literally be glued to his parent to get as much attention as he can, trying to convince him to only take care of him, sulking and complaining about his parent's lack of attention to him ("You only take care of him") and affection ("You love him more!"). To enable the child to adapt to the new situation in a positive way, is by being reassured by his parent and discovering all the pleasures he will enjoy with the new partner.

Tips for Parents

How can you help your child accept to share your love and attention with someone else?

  • Explain to your child that you can love a lot in different ways
    Help him distinguish between the love someone has for a life partner, for a friend or a child (for instance, a parent sleeps with his partner, sharing his concerns with her, kissing her on the month, but he takes care of his child, hugging him, playing with him, etc.) For instance, help him understand that a baby requires a lot of attention and care from you but this doesn't mean that you love the baby more. Talk about the important people in your life and tell him you love them equally but in different ways.

  • Be discreet
    If you feel that your enthusiasm for your new partner makes your child uncomfortable, try to be as discreet as possible; this will help him adapt. Avoid being too affectionate with your partner when your child is around, reduce the duration of your phone conversations and try not to praise your partner too much. Be natural while displaying a moderate behaviour. Do not deny the feelings you have for your partner nor lie to your child in an attempt to protect him; this will only make things worse.

  • Understand your child's feelings and reactions without accepting everything he does
    Acknowledge his feelings and name them; this will help him understand the feelings he is experiencing. If your child behaves in an inappropriate way, reject his behaviour but acknowledge the feeling that motivates it (for instance: "I understand that you may be angry, that you may not like that I spend time with Jacques, but I do not accept that you hit me. When you're angry, just tell me").

  • Show him the joys this new relationship brings
    While acknowledging the disadvantages your new relationship may create for your child, help him identify the benefits it will also bring (for instance: "Now that Jacques is here living with us, I can tell you a story at night while he gives your little brother a bath.") Encourage him to name all things he likes about your new partner (for instance: "What do you like about him" or "What are the things he does that please you?") Make him understand that to you, this relationship is very positive and to him, this relationship doesn't mean anything better or worse; it is simply different.

  • Tell him how much you love him
    Let him know that there is and will always be a special place for him in your heart; no one is going to take that away from him. Give him examples that clearly show that you love him (for instance: show him the first drawing he did that you still keep preciously or the pictures of him you have in your wallet, etc.)

  • Be aware of your child's need for stability
    You child needs stability and routine. A new relationship in your life will be much easier for your child to handle if his routine is not disrupted (bath time, bedtime routine, morning routine, etc.) Maintain his routine as much as possible and if changes are to be made, make them before the new relationship is revealed. This will prevent your child from perceiving the relationship negatively (for instance: if your child sleeps with you, make him sleep alone in his bed before your new partner moves in with you.)

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