After you and your spouse have separated, divorced, or found yourselves somewhere in between, you might find yourself in the position of finding a new love interest. And, if you already have kids, you might be wondering when the right time will be to share the news about your new partner with your kids.
According to an article by Terry Gaspard on DivorceMagazine.com, there are five rules for introducing your new partner to your kids.
- Timing is Important
The divorce has been hard on your child. Even well-adjusted kids struggle when their parents break up. Your separation from your ex is an open wound for your child for a very long time. Gaspard warns that you should not rush to introduce your children to someone you’re dating casually. This could be a setback in your child’s adjustment. In fact, Gaspard notes that it could take a year or two before your child is ready to meet someone new.
- Your Feelings May Not Match Your Child’s
Your kids might see this new person in your life as a rival. Be open to the possibility that your excitement will not be shared by your kids. Younger children may feel like part of their safety net is at risk, while older kids may fear that their other parent is being replaced. You may be head-over-heels, but that doesn’t mean your child will be.
- Security and Reassurance Are Valid Needs
Your kids are already dealing with a lot of change, plus the resultant stress that comes with that change. They no longer have the family they always knew and they are still dealing with all the changes and loss that come along with your divorce. They need to feel secure – that there won’t be another big upheaval soon – and they need reassurance that you will be there for them and continue to love them.
- Objectively Question Your Choice in Partner
Here’s where you really have to sit back and reflect in the most objective way you can. You have found something in common with your new partner and your relationship has taken off. But, is your new partner good for your kids, too? Look deep within and ask yourself whether this person is truly a positive addition to your family from your child’s point of view.
- Ask for Your Child’s Opinion
Gaspard suggests a very straightforward, open approach on how to introduce your new partner to our kids. Explain that you have been dating someone and that you are serious about the relationship. Give him or her the opportunity to ask questions and let them know that it’s time for the two of you to meet. Suggest that it be in a neutral, place and let your child come up with options as to where that might be – perhaps an ice cream shop or a pizza joint would feel comfortable. Give your child the ability to contribute to the conversation and make suggestions that will help him or her feel a little more at ease with what is to come.
Bonus Suggestions That Can Help Ease the Transition
In addition to these five tips that Gaspard lists, the full article gives several more useful suggestions to note.
- For the first few meetings, do not include your partner’s children. It’s enough for your child to adjust to one person, nevermind several – especially kids who might seem like an even bigger threat to them than that adult does.
- Try to avoid overnight visits with your new love interest when your kids are at your place until you are quite deeply committed to this person. In fact, Gaspard suggests waiting until the relationship is permanent or you are engaged before overnight visits happen when your child is at your home.
- Keep your displays of affection in check, appreciating that you are modeling behavior for your kids (especially teens) when it comes to relationship building.
- Don’t forget to remind your child that you have “an abundance of love to go around.” Never is there a better time to assure your kids of your endless affection and that you will always be there for them.
This may not be an easy time for your family, but you can work to minimize the stress, fear, and anxiety a child may feel when facing a new romance in a parent’s life.
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By: Daniel Findling