Dear ModernBlindDates: I’m just starting to date again after my divorce about a year ago, and I’m wondering how long I should wait before introducing my boyfriend to my kids. How do people manage this? I’m totally lost - Calgary Single Mom.
A: There are so many factors that play into this choice, but if I had to give a flat answer, I would say six months is a reasonable amount of time to be dating someone before you think about introducing them to your children.
It’s important to be honest with children about your dating status. Sneaking around behind their backs is never a good idea and may create additional problems such as jealousy, fear, insecurity and mistrust. Share only age-appropriate details about your dating life with them, but let them know that you are dating in a way that they will understand, and that meeting new friends and dating is a healthy, good thing for you and not a threat to them or your family unit.
Sometimes a child may never warm up to the idea of their parent dating, and this can be a challenge for you and your potential partner. But, ultimately, your child is not in charge of your romantic life, and does not make those decisions for you. You must make dating decisions in the best interest of yourself and your children as well.
Some important things to consider before making this decision are:
How serious is the relationship? If you are casually dating with no plans for the future, you may want to delay an introduction. You don’t want your children to get attached to someone who may not be around in three months, and you definitely don’t want them to get attached to a string of people and get the impression that important people in their lives are temporary and unreliable. Children who have gone through a divorce may be especially sensitive to this, and our actions are setting an example for them of what relationships are all about. Wait until you are in a secure, committed relationship before involving your children.
Do your children and partner want to meet each other? If you are newly separated and your children are still hoping that you will reunite with their other parent, it is too early to introduce a new partner. The new ‘intruder’ doesn’t have a fighting chance of competing with a parent, and will be seen as an obstacle to the child’s hopes and wishes. Give the children time to adjust to their new situation before complicating it further. Speak to your partner about how you see the children fitting into your relationship and life together. And if your partner shows no desire to meet your children, then it is clearly not a good idea - no matter how long you’ve been together.
Will this person enrich my life and the lives of my children? Nobody can replace a child’s parent, but a reliable adult friend or step-parent can be an invaluable part of a child’s life. If a relationship is stable and healthy, the happiness you feel will positively affect your entire family. If your romantic relationship is tumultuous, your entire family will feel the effects of that as well. If you are casually dating, or seeing people whom you don’t consider a potential long-term partner and step-parent, then it is best to compartmentalize your dating and family lives. It’s important to set up a social calendar, to prioritize and schedule quality time for your family, and your dating life, to ensure that all of your emotional needs are being met.
Once you decide to introduce your significant other to your children, take it slowly. Organize a casual, pleasant first meeting, and present your partner as a new friend and someone whom you enjoy spending time with and think your kids will too. Try not to push or expect too much at first - these things take time. Be sure to reassure your children that they will always come first in your heart, and allow them to openly express their feelings about the situation. Communication is so important during a time like this, and letting your child know that their thoughts and feelings are being heard and valued will help them to feel calm and safe as they adjust to welcoming a new person into their lives.
Eve is a Maritimer with an incurable case of wanderlust who has now put down roots in Calgary with her three lovely daughters. An avid writer from the time she could hold a pencil, she is an enthusiast, and enjoys bringing people together as a matchmaker/love ninja at www.modernblinddates.com.
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