How to introduce your new partner to your child
Thought dating was difficult the first time? Now you are divorced with children, and you finally feel you've met someone special. But amidst your hope and excitement, you also feel anxious and worried. How do you introduce your partner to your family? What if your children don't like him or her? What if this all falls apart?
Introducing your partner to your children is not a decision to take lightly. However, if you feel the time is right, it can be a meaningful opportunity to share the most important person in your life with someone who you care deeply about.
The following tips offer guidance for making this important introduction a positive experience for you, your child, and your partner.
Put your child's wellbeing first
As you consider the best way to introduce your partner to your child (or children), your child's well-being should be your priority. It's not worth damaging your relationship with your child for a romance that may not last. If your child feels s/he is a priority in your life, introducing a new loved will be much easier and smoother. Make sure to set aside time for just you and your child to bond.
Find the right time, and take it slow
Wait until you have been dating your partner for a significant amount of time and you both consider the relationship exclusive and lasting. It can be confusing and traumatic for children to form bonds with partner after partner, only to see these people walk out of their lives. Children need a stable environment in order to succeed and thrive.
Once your relationship has been established (a good rule of thumb is at least 6 months), introduce your partner slowly. Remember, even though you may be in love, your children will need time to adjust to a new person in their lives. Make the first meeting short, and then gradually increase the amount of time spent together. If you sense your children are having difficulties, talk with them about their worries.
Choose a neutral venue where your child feels happy
When you make the first introduction, choose an environment where your child is at ease, for instance, a park. If you can, try to arrange the first few encounters in a group setting. You may consider inviting a few friends over for a BBQ, and include your significant other. Group settings are less threatening for children and allow you to ease your child into the transition.
In the beginning, introduce your partner as a friend
Most children don't understand the relationship between men and women, especially when they are young. It is not worth complicating the situation by trying to explain. Even if your child is old enough to understand dating, introducing your partner as a friend first will give your child time to get used to this new person.
Limit physical contact in the beginning
In your child's mind, it has likely been him (or her) and you, for as long as he/she can remember. Involving your significant other in your family life too quickly can make your child feel insecure and feel his relationship with you is being compromised. Limit the nights your partner stays over. Introduce public displays of affection slowly.
Be clear about roles
Make sure your partner understands that you're not looking for him to play a parent role. Discipline should be up to the parent only, as well as intimate encounters such as bathtime or getting your child dressed.
Clarify with your child who is the parent and who is the boyfriend or girlfriend. Don't use the phrase "family time" when you discuss getting together with your partner.
Reach out for help
A qualified psychotherapist can provide guidance on how to best introduce your partner to your child. When done in a thoughtful, caring way, this encounter can set a positive foundation for your child and your partner to build a strong relationship down the road.
Contact one of our therapists today to learn more about how they can help, or to learn more about online therapy.