Introducing a two year old to a partner

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

My ex husband and I separated in 5/06 and were officially divorced in January. We have a two year old daughter that lives with me. He lives 2000 miles away. He has visitation and shared parental responsibility. He has seen our daughter 3 times since May 06 and speaks to her every two weeks. On his last visit to Florida, he brought his current GF. He stays at a relative’s house for the week when he visits. I had some behavioral problems with my daughter when he dropped her off, but they dissipated after we resumed our normal routine. He is looking to visit again this month, and I have suggested to him that our daughter might be better served if he were to spend the time alone with her. Or at least spend the first four days with our daughter to allow them time to connect and then re-introduce his girlfriend. He disagrees. His position is where he is his girlfriend will always be. He and his girlfriend have recently moved in together, so their relationship has become more serious. Any thoughts?

A: One of the hardest parts of being a divorced parent is feeling so out of control of what happens when the child is with the other parent. Unless there is abuse or neglect, you really can’t legislate what the other parent does on his (or her) time with the children. It’s normal for a child, especially such a young child, to have some difficulty with transitions. That behavior is not necessarily an indication that something is wrong with what your ex-husband is doing.

My guess is that your ex has some trouble managing extended time with a daughter he sees so seldom and he is relying on his girlfriend to help him out. So, like it or not, you are going to be co-parenting with her as well as with him. My best suggestion to you is to be on friendly terms with her. With all due respect to men who are doing a terrific job as divorced dads, often it is the women who make sure that details (like knowing age-appropriate activities, appropriate clothing, everyday health care, food preferences) are taken care of. When the women can get along and communicate for the sake of the children, the children do much better.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 Apr 2007

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2007). Introducing a two year old to a partner. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 20, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2007/04/15/introducing-a-two-year-old-to-a-partner/