The Bunny Boiler is the name taken from the Glen Close Character in ‘Fatal Attraction’ when the husband’s ex-extra-marital affair partner kills her ex-partner’s child’s bunny by boiling him in a pot and leaving the daughter and wife to find it. But what are the more normal but worse scenario that is used more frequently? The black card that is dealt when the ex is irresponsible beyond rational – When there is no rationale left?
It’s an easy card to deal and easy to say if you are consumed with jealousy and despair. The anger can be all enveloping.
“My ex’s new partner is a paedophile”, announces the ex. I’ve heard it myself with my very own ears. The trouble is no self respecting preofessional can leave this un-investiagted and will nearly always involve further action, the police or Social services. Everything is put on hold and at risk until the situation is investigated, and that can take months.
What if you are the ex’s new partner, the new step-parent. Until recently you had no involvement with the family. Your new relationships with your new partners children is young and fragile. You’re just building trust.Then wham! Everything you do and say comes under scrutiny. You have t transform what you think and do. It could spoil absolutely everything.
Have a look at this recent Guardian article for one just such case. ‘My ex coached our children to say my new partner had abused them sexually’
Let’s think about this from the new step-parents perspective, (they are probably not the step-parent yet but might become one, all being well.)
Think about it in terms of four C’s.
1) Good ‘C’lean fun: There are plenty of ways to have good clean fun with children, and they love it. Organise games and fun, to your hearts content. Just avoid anything unncessarily physical like tickling games, or tackling, or squeezing, sardines, (like hide and seek but whoever find the first hider hides with them, often in cramped spots, until the last person finds them), rolly polly games, wrestling games etc. Of course have fun, of course play games but just be aware of potential risks of too much physical contact.Be aware not for the relationship between you and the child, but how the child might describe the game inadvertantly to the other parent.
2) Camera Careful. When taking photos of your new loves children, just be mindful of common decency. Watch that you don’t inadvertantly take awkward angles, e.g a child on swing with his or her legs in the air showing their underwear, or them in the paddling pool with nothing on. It can be so easy sometimes to snap away, and the results can be mis-interpretted.
3) Correct Conduct in the home. In familes where extended non-biologically connected people live in the house there is one big difference. It’s called ‘higher levels of decency required’. Bathrooms and toilets need to have locks on the doors, and people need to shut bathroom doors and not walk about in the nude or half dressed. Everyone needs a dressing gown. Knocking before entering is a common courtesy and should become a matter of course. Being respectiful like this is just a common courtesy to non-familial members and will make everyon feel a whole load better.
4) Child aware. Children, like adults, are all different. Some children are physical and cuddly and want a hug or re-assurance, Other children are much more wary of physical contact, and don’t want it – ever, from almost anybody. Be senstive and aware of how your behaviour is being received, and if you are unsure – ask. “Just wondering if that hug was alright, or would you rather we did a High Five? or perhaps something else – or nothing at all?” and act on the response. A pat on the head, stroking or brushing hair, applying plasters, cutting nails, helping with clothing or anything similar can all be times of discomfort for the child even though you are doing, ‘nothing wrong’. Keep aware, and always a good idea to ask for permission beforehand.
These simple guidelines give you an idea about how different it can be between your own children and those of your partners. Culturally you may feel that touching and cuddling are a part of your love for another, step-children included, but with step-children you do need to be more circumspect.
If your loved one’s ex accuses you of atrocities, it is a nightmare scenario. The four C’s won’t necessarily rescue you from the accusation, as the accusation itself comes from the need for revenge. However keeping the four C’s will help you know that you have been mindful, and clear.