Introducing a New Partner to Your Kids

Stepmother with two kids.

Dating is always complicated. From finding someone you connect with to simply gaining the courage to ask them out, there's a lot of steps involved and emotions at stake. While dating alone is complex enough on its own, it can become even more so when children are in the picture. It is not uncommon for single parents to start dating after divorcing their other parent of their children, but the process of starting a new relationship in this situation can have its moments of difficulty and stress. One of those moments is when you decide to introduce your new partner to your kids. Here are some points to consider as you introduce your new partner to your kids.

Make An Honest Decision About When To Make The Introduction

The first rule of thumb when dating after divorce is to keep your children's needs at the forefront of all decisions you make. This includes your decision as to when you introduce your new partner to your kids. Very young kids may have an easier to time meeting a new partner while older kids will probably be more hesitant about it. Even while you might think that this new person that you are seeing is so great and your kids will love him or her, your children might not see this person the same way you do right away.

Be honest about when you think is the right time to introduce your new partner to your kids. Depending on the age of your kids, they may or may not already know that you are seeing someone. Make sure to only make introductions with your kids if you have confidence in your relationship with your new partner, as to not have your kids meet someone new only to see them go away in a matter of weeks or less. Whether or not they already know, think about how you expect your child to receive this new partner once they meet them. If you and the other parent are still transitioning your kids into the new parenting schedule, you may want to wait until you notice that your kids are comfortable with the new routine. Introducing new things one step at a time will help your kids not to feel overwhelmed by all of the changes, so consider that as you make the decision about when you introduce your new partner to your kids. Making introductions too quickly can have an effect on the way your kids see your new partner for a long time moving forward, so waiting may be the key to a good relationship into the future. 

Trust Takes Time

For some, meeting new people is an exciting experience. For others, it's not such a great one. When kids are introduced to a new partner of one of their parents, they may experience many emotions, and excitement might not be one of them. They may feel threatened that this new person is coming in to try and replace their other parent. While you may know this not to be true, it is not up to you to decide how your children get to feel about this situation. You must accept their feelings for what they are and help your kids to learn to trust your new partner. 

Talk to your new partner about being respectful of your children's feelings upon their first few meetings. Your kids may set their guard up very high in the beginning, but slow, respectful actions taken by your new partner can help to bring those guards down over time. As the parent, do not put pressure on your children to immediately like your new partner. While you may encourage your children not to be rude or disrespectful, it is not out of the ordinary to see one or more of your kids acting out during the first meetings with your new partner. Know that building trust is a slow process, and if done well, your kids and your new partner may develop a better relationship over time. 

Talk to Your Kids

As a parent, you should regularly talk to your kids about how they are feeling. A divorce is often a traumatic experience for children, and they will be experiencing many feelings. If you are seeing a new partner and your child knows about it, they may be feeling certain emotions about your situation and this new person. You should try and open a dialogue about this with your child.

Start slowly, as your child may be feeling a little apprehensive about their own feelings. They might want to talk to you right away, or they might grow quiet and become more reclusive. When you have time alone with each one of your kids, ask them how they are each feeling. They might not say much at first, but they may be encouraged to say more if you share how you are feeling as well. Don't make your child feel bad for having the feelings they do, no matter what they may be. Remind them of how much both you and their other parent love them, and assure them that your new partner is not trying to replace their other parent.

Introducing a new partner to your kids can be made easier by timing the introduction right, allowing for trust to be built up, and keeping an open dialogue about feelings with your kids. By employing these strategies, you are on the right path towards making a good introduction that will be the basis of a healthy friendship between your new partner and your kids well into the future.