Q – I’m a single parent. When and how do I introduce my kids to someone I am dating?
A – Typically a good rule of thumb is to wait until a relationship has moved beyond causal dating before including children.
Keep in mind, dating is a process of getting to know each other. In the early stages of a relationship it’s difficult to know if a person will be a good role model for your kids, has shared values or similar morals.
Waiting also helps offset the possibility of exposing your children to unnecessary hurt. When kids become involved with someone you’re dating, attachments can quickly become formed. If things don’t work out, your children have to come to terms with the loss of that relationship.
Along with assessing your relationship, make sure your kids are ready to meet someone new. Whether you were married or in a committed partnership, estimates suggest it takes anywhere from one to three years for parents and children to recover from a break up. It’s important to realize that everyone in the family will go through that adjustment process in a different way. While you may have moved on, your kids need time to get used to life in two homes and the idea of Mom and Dad being apart.
Having said that, if you feel your kids are ready and your relationship is on solid ground, I would recommend keeping a first meeting kid-friendly. Be sure to give your children a heads up and let them know when they will be meeting your new boyfriend or girlfriend. Depending on your children’s ages, consider going somewhere neutral that gives kids some space, like having a picnic at a local park, visiting the zoo, taking in a movie together, hanging out at an arcade or going to the batting cages.
Also avoid putting any pressure on your kids to instantly love or even like this new person. Children’s reactions to meeting someone new can vary from immediate adoration to digging their heels and proclaiming “I hate her” or “he’s so lame.”
Be sure to send a clear message that this is someone who has become important to you and you understand that they will need time to get to know each other. Additionally be aware that when kids meet someone new they may struggle with feeling of disloyalty to their other parent. It can help to reassure children that liking someone new doesn’t take anything away from the special relationship they have with their Mom or Dad. New relationships that Mom or Dad have can offer opportunities for special “in addition to” relationships but no one can ever replace the love that is shared between children and their parents.
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