One of the most common worries a divorced parents has is: “When should I be introducing a new partner to my children?”
The best answer is to take your time dating after divorce and don’t introduce your new love to your kids if you are dating casually.
While it’s normal to seek solace, companionship, and a sexual relationship after a breakup, it’s crucial to take it slow so you can assess whether this relationship is casual or might be permanent.
1. Talk first – when you are sure you are dating someone you want to get serious with start dropping their name into conversations with your kids. Tell them funny stories about your new partner or interesting facts about their life. The aim is to get them used to the idea of them before they meet them. Avoid exaggerating or making your partner out to be larger than life as your kids might be disappointed when they actually meet them.
2. Show them that you are happy – if your children see that you are happier and more fulfilled as a result of dating this person they are likely to be happy too. Be careful your new relationship doesn’t distract too much from your relationship with them or they may become jealous.
3. Talk to your new partner – tell them about your kids and ask them how they feel about meeting them. Try not to be offended if they don’t seem keen straight away, it can be quite a daunting prospect particularly if your new partner has never had children themselves.
4. Think of the bigger picture – your new relationship will not only affect your children’s lives but also the lives of your extended family. They will, no doubt, have strong opinions about any decisions you make that affect the kids. Even though you may feel it is none of their business do let them know the situation before you introduce your new partner to the kids – they are more likely to support you if they feel as though they have been consulted rather than just told after the event.
5. Introduce calm not chaos – only introduce a new relationship into your children’s lives if it is going to bring more love and stability into their lives. Relationships which are very volatile or where the two people argue all the time are best kept away from your kids until you have both worked things through. If a child has already lost one parent through divorce, it’s unfair for them to go through a similar situation again or to be caught in the crossfire between you and a new partner. All couples will argue and it is inevitable that your kids may get caught up in it sometimes but it should be the exception not the rule.
6. Home visits – when you feel the time is right ask your new partner to come to your house to pick you up for a date. This way they can meet your kids but without any pressure on anyone.
7. Neutral ground – for the next encounter try and arrange a place like a park or playground where you can all meet together and spend an hour or so doing something fun. What you choose to do will depend very much on the age of your children but meeting somewhere away from home is usually better than your new partner coming to your place for those early visits.
8. Be prepared for tears – even though you might think your new partner is fantastic that doesn’t mean your kids will too. They may have lots of conflicting feelings, particularly loyalty towards their absent parent which can make them feel bad if they like your new partner. If things don’t go smoothly it doesn’t mean that you have made a mistake but it might take longer than you would like for everyone to get along with each other.
9. Adult anguish – it may be the other way round and your new partner is the one who struggles to accept your kids or the role that they will play in their lives. Again this is perfectly natural and doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship is doomed to failure.
10. Keep it simple – these relationships will all take time to establish themselves and it can be hard to negotiate everyone’s feeling. Remember the thing that joins them all is their love of you and as long as they feel that isn’t compromised then, over time, your new family will form in its own unique way.