Maartje got divorced five years ago, and since two years she has a new boyfriend with whom she does not yet live together: “My partner has an eight-year-old son, just like me. On paper, the boys have a lot in common: they love football, Roblox and skating. But my son doesn’t want to know about his “stepbrother”, he always acts very negative and dismissive towards him. This spoils the atmosphere when there are four of us. Many times I have asked him what is his problem with him but I don’t get a clear answer. How do I go about this?”
Many parents forget that children prefer to see their own parents together, even if they often had fights, says Annelies Bobeldijk of WOW! Parenting coaching: “If new partners come into the picture, then that is confirmation for a child that his parents really will never get together again. Another child can be seen as a threat: perhaps your son thinks that boy will take his place, just like the friend took dad’s place. And your son probably doesn’t want to share mom’s attention at all. In short: fear and insecurity play a role in this.”
Forcing contact between the boys is counterproductive, says parenting coach Bobeldijk. “Pay attention to your child’s fear and talk about it together: ‘Are you afraid that mom will like him better?’ Say that you would like to find a way to have a good time together and that he will always be your child and the most important thing.”
“Realize that a divorce is never a child’s choice. Sometimes it is too easy to think that if mom is happy, so is a child. But it doesn’t work that way. Be there for your son and don’t push him into a feeling that is not there yet. You simply cannot force the boys to become friends. Give everyone time to get used to each other.”
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