When you have a child, and you’re dating, it can introduce a whole other level of stress to an already challenging situation. You don’t want to introduce your child to someone new too soon, and you want to make sure you’re not doing anything to create a negative environment or situation for them.
There are things you should know and do before introducing your child to a new romantic partner to make it a better situation for everyone.
First, you want to verify the person’s background. It can feel strange, but you never really know if a person is who they say they are when you first start dating. Early on, especially if you have kids, look into their background online. Make sure there aren’t any red flags, and everything they’ve told you so far checks out.
It can seem like overkill, but the reality is that it’s incredibly easy for someone to be deceptive about their past, especially if you meet them online.
There are a lot of things you can find out about someone just by looking at free public records. For example, you can find not only criminal records but marriage and divorce records and bankruptcy information, and you can confirm employment.
Once you know that someone’s background does indeed check out and you feel safe introducing them to your child at some point, these are some other things to keep in mind.
When To Make an Introduction
The best thing you can do when you have a romantic partner who isn’t the parent of your child is to wait until everyone is completely ready before making any introductions. After you’re divorced or perhaps lose your partner, it’s healthy to want to explore new relationships at some point, but you being ready to move on doesn’t mean your children are.
If your kids aren’t ready, they may experience jealousy, they could feel threatened, or they might try to sabotage the relationship. Some kids can also act out in terms of their behavior, seem depressed, or shut down emotionally.
While every family is different, therapists often recommend waiting until you’ve been in a committed relationship for at least nine to 12 months.
You may feel like you can do it sooner, but you have to be careful. Your kids need time to process that they don’t have the family they once did, and if your new relationship ends up not working out, your kids will go through another loss if they’ve become attached to the person you were dating.
Many relationships during the dating phase end before the 9–12-month mark, so if you introduce your kids too early, it can affect their mental health and well-being, as well as your relationship with them.
Why Wait So Long?
If you’ve met someone, you might be excited, and you could try to justify introducing them to your child too soon.
You could have a range of reasons in your mind why this will be okay. For example, a lot of parents will say they want their kids to see them happing and see what a loving relationship should be like. Yes, your kids want happy parents, but for a long time after a divorce or any other situation where you are no longer with their other parent, they will still wish that you were. It can sometimes take years to understand that you’re happier with someone else than with their other parent.
You also have to realize that as much as you think your child might adore your new partner, they aren’t going to be a replacement for the other parent.
Things to Remember
When you have been with someone for long enough that you feel comfortable introducing them to your kids, remember the following:
- Your kids could have a sense of jealousy or see your new partner as a rival. There’s no guarantee your kids will share their own positive feelings about the person.
- You have to think about your kids first and foremost and their needs. Don’t introduce a partner too soon, or it can create stress. Kids will need lots of reassurance during this time.
- Remember to think about whether the person you’re dating is a good fit for your family. You may really care for the person, but they might not be the right person to introduce to your family for any number of reasons. You have to be honest with yourself about this, as hard as it can be.
- If you’ve been dating someone for a while and you’re confident in your commitment, you should ask your kids if they’d like to meet them. Ask if they have any questions before you make decisions and get their feedback.
How to Handle An Introduction
When you’re at a point where you’re certain you’d like to introduce your partner to your children, there are still some things you need to keep in mind to protect your children’s well-being.
Start with a short meeting in a place that’s neutral. For example, maybe you go out for ice cream. Avoid physical affection at first, and make sure your partner is ready for the meeting and doesn’t push anything too much or have too many questions.
From there, you can continue to have longer meetings with everyone involved, but still, try to keep them in places that are neutral rather than at home.
You might eventually invite the person to your home while your child is there, but these shouldn’t immediately be overnight visits or long stays. You could have the person over for dinner, for example, or maybe lunch.
If you do introduce your child to someone and you feel like they’re experiencing trouble with it and having a hard time, you may need to reevaluate. If you think you’ve waited long enough and handled it well, you might want to consider counseling which can help your child adjust to their new reality with parents who aren’t together with one another, as well as your new relationship.