After they have been apart for some time, your mum or dad may start to see someone new. They may go on to live with or marry this person and even have a baby.
This can feel really strange, as you’re not used to seeing your mum or dad in this way. If you’re a little older, you may be starting to go out on dates yourself and it can be unsettling to find your parents doing the same thing.
Whatever your age, you will need time to get to know this new person and to get used to the situation. Remember, they’re not there to replace your mum or dad and you don’t have to like them straight away – just be open, honest and give them a chance
“I was really nervous about meeting Jenny, dad’s new girlfriend. We went for a pizza and I couldn’t eat much. Next time it was better, and now she takes me shopping – it’s really nice.” Debbie 13.
You might feel guilty about spending time with your mum or dad’s new partner and this is quite normal. You can feel disloyal and like you shouldn’t enjoy yourself. If you find this happening, it is a good idea to talk to them about how you’re feeling.
You can also feel happy that your mum or dad has met someone else and feel sad at the same time. It’s okay to have mixed feelings, everyone has mixed feelings about difficult situations and it’s important not to be too hard on yourself. Having a new partner is a sign that your mum or dad is moving on and this can be hard to accept.
No one expects you to cope with your feelings alone. Your mum or dad meeting someone else is a new situation for you to understand and it will really help to talk to someone about it. If you feel you can’t talk to your parents, speak to a friend you can trust, a relative or teacher.
After a while you might like having a new man or woman around. You know they can never replace your mum or dad but you can still have fun together.
It will probably feel strange the first time you see your parents with a new partner and getting to know each other will take time. Remember, they are not going to replace your mum or dad but they can still become an important person in your life.
“When Mark moved in with mum I felt very nervous about having him around. He started telling me when to go to bed and that made me really angry. I spoke to mum about it and Mark stopped telling me what to do. Now we play computer games together and get along quite well.” Scott, 13.
Give Them A Chance
Try to give your mum or dad’s new partner a chance. They will probably be just as nervous about meeting for the first time as you are. Sometimes it takes time to get used to a parent’s new partner but you can get to like having them around.
If you find you are having problems getting along, it’s a good idea to talk to your mum or dad and tell them what it is that’s making you unhappy.
One or both of your parents may live with or marry a person who already has children and you may become part of a stepfamily. Life in a stepfamily can be difficult to begin with as you have to deal with a new stepfather or stepmother in your life and with new stepbrothers or sisters.
Try to be polite even if you do not like them at first. They may become your friends.
Sharing a home with people you don’t know can be hard. You may resent sharing your mum and dad with new people and find it hard to share your space. There can be new family rules to get used to and a whole new way of living.
Sometimes stepbrothers and sisters never really get on well, while others have a lot of good times together. It helps if everyone can keep talking and be open about how they’re feeling and if you do your best to accept your new family situation.
Don’t be afraid to speak up though if you’re finding it really difficult. Talk it through with your mum or dad and see if you can make little changes to make family life easier.
Learning to live with new people can take time. Having a bigger family means there will always be someone around, but try to find a quiet place to call your own. Your stepsiblings may be good to talk to as they will have been through the separation process themselves and they may be feeling the same emotions as you.