For many single parents, the idea of dating again is thrilling and terrifying at the same time. On one hand, you’re excited to find a new love interest. On the other, you’re bombarded with questions about how and when to introduce your new love to your kids. The questions will be plenty: “Where did you meet?” “Did you meet them online, in-person or through a professional matchmaker in the city?” “What about our other parent?” “Will they be our new mom or dad?”
Telling the kids you’re in a new relationship can be an uncomfortable conversation, especially if it’s your first relationship since separating from your spouse or the parent of your children. There are, however, ways to soften the blow – to make the children feel more at ease with a situation that may seem complex or odd to them.
Introducing Your Date to Your Kids
Many single parents ask, “When should I introduce the person I’m dating to my children?”
Before you tell your kids, assess the stability of your relationship. Some parents make the mistake of telling their children without waiting until their relationship is well-established. The commitment is more important because when there is a commitment in your relationship, it will become an obvious reassurance to the children.
Being true to yourself and your partner is crucial if you want to parent in style. Not every relationship may reach the level of commitment that require including the children. You may be enjoying the company of a person who is fun to be with, but if you can’t imagine a future with them, best not to jump ahead with the introductions.
Some parents make the mistake of introducing their dates immediately. Once you introduce them to the kids, you leave the latter vulnerable to becoming attached. This can be unfair for the kids, especially if the relationship ends early. Parting ways will be just as painful for them as your initial separation from their parent.
A Quick Assessment is Important
If you’re a single parent already in the dating scene, ask yourself the following questions first before you introduce your new love interest to your children:
- “Do I see this as a long-term relationship?” If not, you still want your date to meet your children, consider introducing your partner as a “friend” and keep things platonic in front of the kids until you’re sure of the relationship.
- “Can I envision this person as a part of our family?” If yes, then introduce the children at this point of your relationship.
How to Discuss Dating With Your Children
Once you’ve decided that you are in a serious and committed relationship, you’ll have to talk with the kids. It shouldn’t be just a ‘simple’ talk; a meaningful conversation can help your children understand your new love interest, as well as allow you to see your kids’ side of the coin. Most importantly, this conversation should affirm your commitment to your children and answer their questions.
Consider the following tips:
- Calm your children’s fears. Many kids fear abandonment. They may be afraid that you’ll abandon them for your new relationship. Therefore, use your conversation to commit to your kids that you’ll still prioritize them.
- Keep things in perspective. When you talk to your kids about your dating life, you’re not asking for issuing an ultimatum about accepting your partner AND asking the kids’ approval of your relationship. Instead, you’re starting a talk about how important your kids are and what you want for the future. Begin the conversation by stating your love and support for the family before asking your kids about their opinion on expanding the family.
In addition, you’ll want to:
- Acknowledge your children’s fears. Kids have worries about you dating, so don’t disregard them. Instead, acknowledge that it’s natural for them to worry and affirm them.
- Share your enthusiasm for the person you’re dating. Let your children know why the relationship is important to you. This is also another opportunity to demonstrate how your new partner is treating you.
First Meeting Ideas
When it’s time to finally introduce your partner, plan an informal activity or outing. Organize an activity where everyone can be themselves, relax and just enjoy your time together. For example, organize a small pizza party or play a quick round of miniature golf. These activities should refrain from creating situations that require lengthy conversation.
During the meeting, be yourself. Let your kids see that you’re comfortable in your skin in front of them and with this special person. Keep conversations light and let the activity fill in any gaps in your conversation. You don’t have to force deeper bonding immediately but let your partner be themselves with your children, too.
Accepting dating relationships may be a slow process for your children. Ultimately, your priority is to reassure the kids that no new relationship will replace your love for them.