It appears that the twelve year union of Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale has come to an end. Amid rumors that Gavin was having an affair with the couple’s nanny, to rumors that Gwen may have broken up Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert ’s four year marriage, we now come to learn that Blake has invited Gwen and her children to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with him on his Oklahoma ranch. Although I am sure Blake’s intentions were honorable, is it good parenting practice for Gwen to accept an invitation to celebrate the first major holiday after her family’s break-up with her new boyfriend?
Gwen and Gavin are the parents of three boys, namely, Kingston who is nine, Zuma who is seven, and Apollo who is twenty-one months old. Children under the age of six are much more resilient and transition much easier to new partners than older children, as they are still cognitively developing. Older children are much more resistant to new partners, as they tend to be more confused about the breakup of their family, and have developed many more memories which include their former family unit.
Introducing a child to a new partner too soon can have damaging effects on a child. Aaron Welch, a licensed therapist with The Lifeworks Group in Winter Park, Florida says “don’t hurry to introduce someone new to your kids. The tendency is to be very excited that you have met someone you really like, especially after a tough divorce [or breakup]. Because of that excitement, people believe their kids will share that same feeling.” This is not always the case, however.
Once the parent has established that a serious relationship has been established with the new partner, and the parent has had an open and frank discussion about how the new partner views children in his or her life, the children and new partner may be introduced. There is no hard and fast rule as to how long a parent should exclusively date an individual before that person is introduced to the children, but most experts believe that time period should be no less than six months. If a child is still experiencing pain and confusion over the family break-up, that time may need to be extended in order to eliminate confusion and permit the child to process and grieve the loss of his or her former family unit.
Significant others who happen to be friends with one or both parents before the breakup, who have a significant age difference with the parent, or are the first partner after a divorce or break-up, have significant obstacles to overcome, as all of these obstacles are likely to upset the children. Understandably, relationships experiencing one or more of these features, routinely do not last.
If Blake is serious about Gwen and wants to act in the best interest of her children, he should retract his offer, for it is much too soon for the children to process this new relationship. Furthermore, he must appreciate and respect the fact that after a family breakup, it is the parent’s responsibility and obligation to rebuild security and stability in the lives of the children. Routinely, this means, the new partner may on many occasions have to “step aside” and respect the parent-child relationship and its boundaries.
Cara A. Boyanowski concentrates her practice in the field of domestic law and wills and estates. As a domestic law practitioner, she represents clients in simple and complex divorce, support, custody, alimony, step-parent adoptions, name change and same-sex divorce and custody matters. She works out of Obermayer’s Harrisburg, PA office and can be reached at 717-234-5315 or at Cara.Boyanowski@obermayer.com.