Posted by Pascal on May 21, 2020 at 9:55
Dating as a single parent comes with share of challenges. From a general lack of time to feelings of guilt about dating again, it can be a tad overwhelming. But if things are going well, one question will inevitably pop up: how do you introduce your new partner to your kids?
If you found someone great, you might be excited about that prospect. On top of making it easier to see them, it would also be the next step in your relationship. But it is a big step. And there are no guarantees that things will go well. Your new partner might not be comfortable around kids. And your kids could get jealous.
While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to making these introductions, dating experts, psychologists, and researchers all agree on a few things.
Here are the points they most commonly raise:
Dating, by nature, is an unstable activity. Online dating gives you access to thousands of potential partners, and you need time to find the right match for you.
That means some level of trial and error. Not all your dates will turn into a long-term relationship.
And that is normal.
But your kids don’t need to be exposed to that uncertainty. Especially if they are still adjusting to the end of your relationship with the other parent.
Once you feel the relationship is getting serious, you can talk about it with your kids.
This will give younger kids some time to adjust to the idea of you having someone new in your life. Your older kids won’t feel like you are springing a new partner on them out of the blue. If you are close to them, it is important to not make them feel betrayed by your hiding something as important as a new romantic interest.
Also remember you are not trying to set up a meeting just yet.
By doing this, you are giving them time to get used to the idea and voice their concerns. Then, they might let you know when they are ready to meet your date. Especially if your kids are older.
They will inevitably have some.
You don’t have to disclose everything, of course. But kids are not always comfortable with change. So, do your best to alleviate their concerns.
They want to know that you’ll still be around for them. That you are not going to push them aside to make room for your new flame.
Do your best to reassure them. Let them know you’ll always have plenty of love for them, that you are not trying to replace their other parent, and that your relationship with them is not going to change.
Everything might be rosy and peachy with your new partner, but you still need to check.
If you haven’t done so already, make sure you are on the same page. That your relationship is serious and exclusive.
Also take a moment to discuss meeting the kids. Is your date looking forward to it as much as you are? And how do they see their involvement in the family dynamics?
Depending on your respective personalities and the pace of your relationship, you might have this conversation after 5 to 6 months, or a year. No need to set a specific date, do it when it feels right.
Try to put yourself in their shoes. It wouldn’t look good if they learned of your new relationship from your kids.
Avoid blindsiding them. If you are going to introduce a new boyfriend or girlfriend to their kids, have the courtesy of letting your ex know first.
Sure, they don’t have a say on who you choose to date, but they do have the right to know.
And by doing so, you’ll keep your kids from having to “spy” for the benefit of the other parent.
Now that you feel ready, your partner is on board, your ex is in the know, and your kids know that you are seeing someone, all you have to do is… wait a little bit.
Kids need more time to adjust to change than grown ups.
So, take whatever amount of time you are comfortable with, and add another few weeks. Even months, if you want to be safe.
If the feelings are real, and the relationship is strong, these few weeks won’t make much of a difference for your new couple.
And if you have a change of heart in the meantime, or your new relationship starts to show some cracks, then you’ll save your kids from the experience of hope-abandonment that comes with people coming in and out of their lives too quickly.
If you still feel confident in your new partner’s character after this waiting period, it’s time for your kids to meet them.
Try to keep the meeting short and informal. This is, hopefully, the first of many other interactions they will have with each other.
So, let them dip their toes in progressively. A few hours at the pool, or the museum, a picnic, or a movie, are all relaxed settings where they’ll be able to interact lightly without too much awkwardness.
If you introduce your new partner to one kid, you now have three different relationships. A parent-child relationship with your kid, a romantic relationship with your new partner, and the relationship between your date and your child.
If you have two kids, the number of relationships is now six. And if they have a kid of their own, ten.
Things will take time. There will be plenty of opportunities for conflict, jealousy, misunderstandings, and tension.
But also even more opportunities for sharing memorable moments, laughing together, building trust, and forging long-term, loving relationships.
So, remember to be patient with everyone. To listen to their concerns, and build loving relationships, step by step.
It will be worth it for everyone involved: for your new partner, for your kids, even for your ex partner.
And, of course, for yourself.