If you’re a parent who is new to ethical non-monogamy, you probably have a lot of questions about the ways in which your relationships might impact your children. Things like how much to tell them about your relationship philosophy, whether to introduce new partners and how to manage outside opinions can be confusing. Even seasoned poly veterans may run into unfamiliar territory now and then. We live in a society that defaults to the monogamous relationship structure and have been conditioned to see the nuclear family as the benchmark. Navigating structures outside of that norm can seem daunting.
Everyone’s situation is unique. The decisions you make will reflect your values, lifestyle and parenting practices. Agreements you make with your partners will also affect your approach. Here are some general guidelines to consider with regard to polyamorous parenting.
Get on the Same Page
Communication is one of the most important aspects of positive polyamorous relationships. It’s even more crucial when kids are involved. Talk to all partners involved regarding the children. Be sure you’re on the same page regarding such issues as when to make introductions, how to refer to new partners, the type of involvement you all want to have with each other’s kids and what information you’re comfortable sharing outside your polycule. Having similar philosophies or at least being able to make healthy compromises will help to reduce potential problems down the line.
Take It Slow
It can be wise to take things slowly when it comes to integrating your relationships. Get to know new partners well before introducing them to your children. Make sure you’ve had the types of conversations that ensure you’re all in sync when it comes to interactions. It might make sense to choose neutral settings for those initial introductions. It doesn’t have to be a formal affair. You can refer to your partner as a “friend” as a way of facilitating a gradual introduction if that makes sense for you all. Consider the age of your children and what is most appropriate for them. Allow them to ask questions as they begin to get a sense of this new person’s role.
Be Open and Honest
As with other aspects of ethical non-monogamy, honest communication is at the forefront of childrearing in this context. You don’t have to disclose every single detail to your children. What you tell them should be age-appropriate and within the parameters of your values. However, providing as much honesty as possible will instill trust in future interactions. Though your family structure may differ from what they see in the media and through their peers, they will come to understand the choices you’re making are genuine and loving.
Also, try to avoid communicating any sense of shame surrounding your relationships. Though polyamory is outside of societal norms, it’s not wrong or something to hide. Be upfront with your comfort level in sharing private details with the outside world. Then let your child direct the ways in which they care to divulge information to their social circles within the guidelines you’ve set.
There’s a lot to consider within polyamorous parenting styles. You’ll probably also discover there are a great many advantages that come with adding trusted adults to your family interactions. Keep communication lines open. Expect to make some adjustments along the way. Eventually, you’ll find your groove.