Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Children: Meet Significant Other or Wait?

My ex has started nagging me about having the children meet his girlfriend. This is the same girlfriend that was in part responsible for breaking up my marriage. I know that eventually this woman may meet my children, but I consider it too soon in my ex's relationship. My opinion is that young children first need time to adjust to their parents being in separate homes. Then, they should only be exposed to new significant others when the relationship is serious enough to warrant an introduction.

I am protective of my children. I research everything from the foods they eat to the preschools they attend. I know I am not alone in being overprotective, but young children (which I classify as under the age of 5) do not have the broad set of social rules and context needed to navigate complex relationships. Young children do understand many things like hostility and danger, but these concepts are limited to tones of voice, words used, or simple rules like stop at a red light.

My instinct to protect my children includes knowing the people in my children's world. I believe that creating a connected and well-defined environment gives them the security they need early in life to build confidence, explore their worlds, and develop a solid understanding of trust. My ex never thinks about these ideas and considers such thoughts paranoid.

At the end of the day, my goal is not to control my children or their lives. Rather, my goal is to establish a foundation so that my children have a base to explore their world. As my children get older, I hope this background gives them confidence to explore their world proactively rather reactively. I want my children to be able to think first before acting and understand the concept of consequences. I also want my children to consider life full of possibility.

When children's worlds lack security, their lives start with with living by reaction. Life is more likely to be lived in survival mode. While survival is important, a survival-based lifestyle impedes curiosity and the ability to develop trust.

I wish my ex would consider the ramifications of something as simple as introducing his girlfriend. I wish he would think about the children's development and readiness for such an experience. Children grow so fast and nurturing the early years is one of the best gifts any parent can give a child.