Dating has never been more complicated than it is these days. There is also the matter of getting “back on the horse” for those who are divorced. If the relationship survives those early dates and settles into a positive and steady rhythm, the next hurdle for some is introducing a new partner to their children. The question is: How to do it right?
Make an honest decision
Parents are at their best when they put the interests of the children first. Each family’s circumstances are unique, so a parent will need to put serious thought into when and how to make the introduction. The one rule of thumb is that the relationship should be stable with little concern of the partner disappearing after a few weeks.
While the child’s needs are the priority, it also makes sense to talk to the partner to get their thoughts on the matter – this enables them to engage in a setting where they feel comfortable. Perhaps set some ground rules, particularly about being respectful about what the kids may experience.
Some general rules regarding the children:
- Younger kids: They will likely be less judgmental and more accepting of the new person. They can quickly become attached, however, which could add additional stress if the relationship does not work out.
- Older kids: They will likely be less trusting, particularly if they have met other partners over the years since the divorce.
Relationship experts and therapists generally advise that the new partner should let the relationship with the kids grow organically over time rather than inserting themselves as a parent figure.
Talk with the kids
Parents are continually checking in with their children, whether they realize it or not. It is best to add the relationship to the list to topics they should monitor. Encourage the children to share their feelings on the matter, but do not press them if they have nothing to say. It’s also important to keep in mind that the children may regard this new person as competition for a parent’s affection.
Healthy outcome is the goal
Healthy divorces involve a comprehensive and thoughtful agreement with a detailed parenting plan. It often means active co-parenting between the biological parents. This all enables the next partner to enter the dynamic in the healthiest way possible. If all goes well, the kids will get a new friend and perhaps a parental figure to complement their expanded family unit.