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4-Year-Old Son Not Getting Along with Live-In Boyfriend

Question:

My ex-husband and I have been divorced for two years, and we maintain a healthy relationship with one another. We have a 4-year-old son who spends time with both of us. 

My ex-husband has a fiancé, and I have a boyfriend. We have been living together for 10 months. My son will not warm up to my boyfriend. He cries constantly and follows me around whenever my boyfriend is home. My boyfriend has done everything he can to establish a relationship with my son. He has done nothing to warrant my son’s reaction. I have tried talking, bargaining and disciplining, but nothing seems to help the situation.  

My son’s negative reaction began when my boyfriend moved in. He has three children of his own. My son does say that he loves my boyfriend “a little,” but that he wants it to just be the two of us living together. 

 

Answer:

Change in the home environment can be very difficult for small children. It is likely that your son is targeting his frustrations at your boyfriend because he associates him with the disruption in his home life. It has nothing to do with what your boyfriend has or hasn’t done.  

Have you tried integrating your boyfriend in activities outside the home environment, such as a trip to the zoo or a picnic in the park? Removed from the stress of the house, your son might more easily come to see your boyfriend as someone who is fun and supportive.  

It sounds like you have a good relationship with your ex-husband. Would he be willing to help out? Perhaps you could invite him and his fiancé over for dinner so your son can see that the new family structure is still loving and supportive. If this is not possible in your home, maybe you could get a babysitter for your boyfriend’s children and the three of you could go to your ex-husband’s house for dinner. It is important that you show your son that the new family dynamic is supportive and caring like the old one was.  

Family counseling is another good option. Your son needs a safe place where he can share his feelings and receive guidance from a therapist about the changes he is experiencing. It will take patience and time, but he seems receptive. After all, he says that he loves your boyfriend “a little.” This is a strong step forward. Do everything you can to reinforce these statements.

 

 

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