5 Guidelines for Introducing Your Kids to a New Significant Other After Divorce
For many of our clients, it takes some time after their divorce to feel ready to start dating seriously again. This is especially true for our divorced parents whose primary concern, both during and after their divorce, is the wellbeing of their children. Well at some point, your life will have to move forward and that will mean getting to experience love and intimacy again. And when that day comes, you may want to exercise some precaution when introducing your new partner to your children.
First off, it is best to wait until you are dating more seriously and be sure that this new person in your life is going to be around for a significant period of time. Your kids have already experienced the loss of a family, maybe even a childhood home, so getting attached to your new significant other could lead to yet another loss that they could potentially have to endure.
Start with brief, casual meetings at first, so your kids can get comfortable with the idea. Avoid long periods of time, or “replacing” the other parent in the children’s familiar home.
Your children’s age plays a part too. Children under the age of 10, tend to feel more possessive of their parents, so introducing a new partner may cause confusion, sadness, and anger. And, it may take time – don’t be disappointed if your kids don’t fall in love with your new partner right away. It’s always a great idea to give your ex the head’s up that you are going to introduce this person to your kids so he/she can be prepared to answer questions and help the kids process this new relationship.
Here are 5 more tips to help you make the transition as smooth for your kids as possible:
1- Introduce the idea before the person. Be honest about your feelings and help your kids understand why you have been spending time with someone new. Talk to them about feeling lonely and that you are ready to establish a relationship with someone new. Divorce Magazine recommends: “Invite your children’s feedback for ideas about how and when they meet your new partner for the first time. If you’ve been dating someone for a while and feel relatively confident that you are heading toward commitment, talk to your children and explain that you are dating someone who you care about and that you’d like to introduce this person to them.”
2- Keep it short and sweet. The first meeting should be short and low key. Going to a restaurant or neutral spot for the first meeting is best. Ask your kids where they’d like to go and don’t invite your partner’s children to join you on the first few visits.
3- Timing is everything. It is of utmost importance to give your kids a chance to adapt to their new normal before introducing a new partner. Kids need time to grieve the loss of their family unit, they may be dealing with a new house, or a new school, and they are dealing with your emotions too.
4- No secrets. There are reasons why it’s important not to wait too long to introduce a new partner too. Kids don’t want to feel like you’ve been keeping a secret from them and it gives you a chance to see if this potential new partner is going to be good for your kids before it gets more serious. Ultimately, you don’t want to be with someone who’s not good for your kids.
5-Keep it PG. When the timing is right and you do introduce your new partner to your kids, keep it friendly at first – No PDA or sleepovers! Kids need time to adjust to the idea of you being with someone other than their other parent, as well as time to understand that a new relationship is not going to change their relationship with you.