How can I make moving in easier on our whole new family unit?
June 23, 2005 1:35 PM   Subscribe

My boyfriend is moving in. How do I make it good/nice/easier for him and for my 5 year old daughter?

Moving across the country is stressful. Moving in with someone for the first time is stressful. Living with a five year old is stressful. Dealing with me on a day to day basis is stressful. My boyfriend is about to face all of it in three weeks and I want to do what I can to make it work for my boy and my kid?

Yes, ideally, he'd live close, we'd pick a new place together so it's neutral territory and we'd combine all our stuff. Economics and timing prevent these "best practices" tactics. He's moving into my place mid-lease, leaving all his stuff in storage and he's never lived with anyone before.

My daughter knows him, knows he's my boyfriend, knows he's moving in and gets along with him fine, but I also want to make sure that she's as comfortable and happy as I can make her with the situation. (I've known him for many, many years and know that he's good/safe/nice around kids. He talks to her with respect and respects my need to pay lots and lots of attention to her.)

What can I do -- either emotionally, in action or spacewise -- to make him feel wanted, needed and comfortable as soon as possible? How can I make this transition comfortable for my daughter?

How did you introduce a step-parent into the family? How did your get cohabitation to work when you made that leap?
posted by Gucky to Human Relations (5 answers total)
Best answer: I had a bit of a different situation in that my daughter lives with her mother during the week and is only with me on weekends.

But I integrated my fiancee by deliberately making some space for her things, to give her room to feel like she had a home. Clear out a place in the closet for him. Make sure there are shelves available. Get his brand of toothpaste in the medicine cabinet, and any of his toiletries. If he's storing this stuff in a little bag in a bathroom drawer, he will feel like he's in a hotel.

As for the kid, make sure the three of you get out and do some things together. The first night he's there, go out for pizza. Rent a movie. Build tents out of blankets in one of the rooms and have an adventure.

I'd recommend that after that, try to maintain the same routine with your daughter as you always have: if you read to her every night before she goes to bed, make sure you're still that person every night - eventually she will ask your boyfriend to tuck her in at night, but until she requests it, you need to demonstrate that he does not replace you.

The fact that the two of them already get along is the most important thing. Outside of that, ease them into time alone together. At first it will be the three of you together all the time, then after a while you can run downstairs to do laundry, or outside for an errand for a few minutes. Slowly build up to a situation where she is comfortable being watched by him for long periods of time, maybe even overnight.

Good luck, and happy living!
posted by rocketman at 2:13 PM on June 23, 2005

Just don't argue about the toilet seat.

posted by matildaben at 3:44 PM on June 23, 2005

is there some space that could be his? i don't know what kind of person he is. for me, a desk or just a chair where i could sit with my laptop and a pair of headphones, somewhere out of the way. for him - i dunno. perhaps the same, perhaps a bench in the garage, or a comfy chair in front of the tv.

somewhere that has the unspoken rule that he's left in peace.

or maybe i'm just an unsociable bastard :o)
posted by andrew cooke at 7:47 PM on June 23, 2005

seconding andrew that there should be at least one place that's exclusively your boyfriend's, just as (I hope) your daughter already has a space of her own. Personal territory, no matter how small, does make an "ownership" that lets people share the rest of their lives more easily. I don't think it even has to be a big enough space for a person to fit in -- just a shelf is enough, so long as it's sacrosanct and their own.
posted by anadem at 8:14 PM on June 23, 2005 [1 favorite]

The biggest adjustment won't be his moving in. It won't be you doing things all together. It won't be whether or not he has a shelf. The biggest adjustment will be in the relationship between him and your daughter. It is good that they already get along. Is he going to be an authority figure? Potential Step-Dad? She isn't going to want him to be in-charge. They might get along fine, but that is a big adjustment, for them both. You've had five years to get to know her, and to grow as a parent as she grew as a kid. He's jumping in without that prior experience.

Be patient. When she doesn't like what he says and comes running to you to contradict it, support him. Not if it's unreasonably insane of course, but if you teach her she doesn't have to listen to him, she never will.

They both are going to need time to feel each other out and learn how to deal with the new dynamic in their relationship. There are going to be rough days ahead, but in the end it is worth it. I know, I've been in his shoes.

When you do the little rituals, include him in at least some of them. This will help the bonding process between all of you.
posted by Apoch at 3:19 AM on June 24, 2005 [1 favorite]

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