Stepfamily Talk: Concerned about Sleepovers
Are Father’s Overnight Visits with New Girlfriend Hurting Couple’s Son?
My husband recently moved out of our house. We were married for six years and have a two-year-old son. He has since (in the past two weeks) taken up residence in an apartment across town. In addition, he has a woman living with him, his new girlfriend. My concern is not my emotions in this, but more, what it is doing to our two-year-old, when his daddy has someone with him all the time, and obviously, at night.
Is it good, detrimental, or does it matter at this age to have the child experience his dad having sleepovers? When I bring it up to my husband (legally, we are still married; there are not separation papers to say we aren’t), he says that I’m saying this because I have a problem with it. I am getting counseling to deal with my own emotions over the end of my marriage, but I really have concerns for our son. Thank you for taking the time to look at this e-mail. I eagerly await your response. And, if there are any articles I can read and print to give to him, please suggest them. Thanks again.
First of all, we’re sure it’s difficult knowing your husband is living with a new girlfriend already. And it makes sense you’re worried about how she’ll affect your son. In general, it’s better for recently divorced parents to wait before introducing their children to dates. It’s also a good idea for divorced parents to wait until they’re pretty serious about a girlfriend before having sleepovers. Kids can get attached to parents’ girlfriends and then upset when they disappear.
Parents should also consider what kind of example they want to set for their children. It’s unclear to me whether your husband’s girlfriend is a serious relationship or one in a long string of girlfriends. If you think your husband’s girlfriend is a serious relationship, you should try to establish a civil relationship with her. That’s the best way to nurture your child. Having said all that, you can’t control what your husband does at his house, now that you’re separated. As Dr. Margorie Engel, president of the Stepfamily Association of America says, “You really have no say about what goes on in the other household. The reality is, you have no way of controlling it. But you can control how you deal with issues in your home.”
You might say, for example, that Daddy has every right to behave in a certain manner in his house, but in your home, you do things differently. However, if you’re worried that your husband’s behavior will hurt your child in some way — if there’s some kind of physical or emotional abuse taking place — then you need to get a counselor, minister, or lawyer involved.
Overall, dating as single parents can be challenging, both for adults and for their children. There is a great need for recently divorced parents to take a break from dating so they can solidify their relationship with their children and get accustomed to being alone. For this reason, it’s often not a good idea for divorced parents to rush into new relationships. We hope this advice helps, and please let us know if we can assist you in any other way.
All Our Best,