How to Introduce Your Child to a New Special Someone

meeting partners children

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 24% of children aged 0-17 lived only with their mothers and 4% with only their fathers in 2012, and those statistics continue to climb. With so many single-parent homes, it is likely that if you are in the dating world, either you or your new partner will eventually have to tackle the sometimes challenging task of introducing the kids into the picture. We asked Child Development Expert and Parenting Coach Pam Dyson her thoughts about the best way to handle these introductions.

When Is the Best Time for Introductions?

There is no magic formula for when to introduce your children to your new partner. Every situation is unique, and with its own set of circumstances. There are, however, some ground rules you should consider before arranging a meeting.

Length of Time
It is critical to make sure enough time has passed since your last relationship, be it with the children’s other parent or someone else. Both you and your children must be used to the idea that there is no hope for a past reconciliation and you both must be secure with the current situation.

Once you and your partner have dated long enough to become serious, typically six or so months, it may be time to set up a meeting.

Dyson agrees there is no set time limit, but for the couple to be sure the relationship will be long term. “If you’re not yet divorced, it’s a good idea to wait until after your divorce is final before introducing a new person to your child, or your child may be confused. Especially if they’re young and have a difficult time understanding the finality of divorce,” explained Dyson.

mother and daughter talking

Children’s Ages
It is a lot easier and less complex to introduce younger children into the equation.

15% of men are stepfathers, and 
12% of women are stepmothers!

Children younger than three will probably not have the ability to understand the dynamic of the new relationship; but for those who are older, challenges may arise.

In the case of teens, it is important to remember the example you’re setting, especially regarding sex.

“Teens look to their parents for how to handle things in regards to dating and sex. Be a role model. I suggest you reserve your sleep overs with your significant other to nights when your child is not at home; or be ready to have to explain sexuality, if you’ve not already done so,” said Dyson. 

Children’s Feelings
Even though, to you, it may seem like enough time has passed, for a child, it may still be too soon for introductions. If your children were close to the previous partner or if they have never seen you with anyone at all, they may perceive this new person as a threat to them. On the other hand, they may see this person as a future parent to them. It is important to address your child’s feelings and concerns and to be acutely aware of them before jumping the gun.

Dyson advises parents to always keep the lines of communication with their children open. “Answer their questions honestly in an age-appropriate way. Let them know they can always come to you with their questions and concerns. Children need to make sense of what’s going on around them, so parents need to be willing to help them process what’s going on,” said Dyson.

Your Partner’s Feelings
Before introducing the children into the relationship, make sure you and your partner are on the same page.

Establish boundaries early on regarding your partner's relationship with your children. Consider his or her feelings and intentions toward the children, but don't allow for a close relationship if there are any doubts whatsoever regarding your relationship as a couple. 

Mother and her daughters in ice cream shop

Setting Up the Meeting

Before any intros are made, make sure to throw your partner’s name around in conversations with the children. Explain that he or she is your friend, whom you enjoy the company of and think the children will as well. It may be a good idea to even allow the children to say “hi” or have short conversations with your partner on the phone, before they actually meet.

Keep It Light
During the first few meetings, do activities that the children will enjoy (preferably in a social setting). Meet up somewhere neutral and ideally in a place where the children would be used to meeting new people, such as a park. Be casual in the introductions and keep the visit brief.

Have Low Expectations
Don’t go into the meeting with any real expectations. Allow your children and partner to be themselves, and don’t try to control the situation or force the outcome you’d like. Let them get to know one another on their own terms, and in their own time.

Don’t Go Overboard
Even if your children and partner seem to get along well, it is still important to have separate, alone time with them. If you are constantly insisting that you all do everything together, the parties may grow to resent one another, and you.

Dyson believes it is also critical that you, and your child, remember that you cannot replace the child’s other parent with this new person. “Some children need to be allowed plenty of time to warm up to the new person. Scheduling fun activities to get to know one another can be beneficial. Go slowly,” cautioned Dyson. 

{ MORE:  A Wedding with Kids }

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How to Introduce Your Child to a New Special Someone

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3 comments

  1. Nikki says:

    I went through this 4 years ago, excellent advice. It’s never easy and no two stories are the same but overall this advice is a great place to start.

  2. LIZ says:

    i like this info, im gonna handle this to my friend

  3. mommy nhoj says:

    Even if not applicable to me, it’s a good read article.

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