As a divorced parent starting to date again, what happens when you find someone special? Introducing your kids to your new partner may present challenges, especially if the children are still coming to grips with the divorce. How can you help your children adapt?
Make the introductions early.
If you believe this new relationship has the potential to become serious, bring your children into the loop early on so they aren’t broadsided by the idea. Start by letting your kids know that you’re dating someone you really like, and that you’d like them to meet him/her. Keep a casual tone at first.
Ease into a live-in situation.
In his book, The Marriage Go Round, Johns Hopkins University sociologist, Andrew Cherlin, makes an evidence-based case that children experience negative effects when their parents re-partner too rapidly or too often. The moral of this book is: ratchet up the seriousness of the relationship slowly.
Stress that your partner is not replacing a parent.
At some point, you may hear the question: “Is so-and-so going to be my new mommy or daddy?” Some children are resistant to this idea, and understandably so. You have the right to see whomever you choose, but your child also has the right to form a relationship with your partner in his/her own time. Remove unfair expectations from the start, stressing that this person is your friend, and you hope you’ll all be friends, but that your new partner will never replace the children’s mother or father. Don’t force a parental relationship; let it happen in its own way and time.
Introducing your children to a new partner is almost always a bit awkward at first, but by being sensitive to their needs, you give the children a chance to form their own bonds with your new partner, making for a happier, healthier family overall.