Navigating the dating world can be exciting and challenging, and having children adds an extra layer into the fold. Having a supportive partner around who gets along with your children can open a whole new happy chapter in your life, and it’s important you create a safe environment for your loved ones to connect.
Timing is key when it comes to introducing your children to a new partner. This person has the potential to become an extra parent figure, so it’s important not to rush things.
Before they meet
It can be tricky to know when to introduce a partner to your children. A good rule of thumb is to wait until you feel confident of a commitment between you and this other adult.
Meeting a lot of new adults, and particularly significant adults can be emotionally draining for children. Getting to know and then saying goodbye to too many parent figures can be difficult for kids. So, before you introduce your most special people to one another, you may want to ask yourself if you see this partner staying in your life for a long time, especially if the children are young.
Depending on your child’s age, you may wish to explain dating to them at some point. Particularly if you’re separated from their other parent, it could be helpful to explain that you will always be their parents and always love them, but sometimes adults meet new people who become special to them.
If you co-parent, you may be able to keep date nights for your nights without the kids, but if you are organising someone to childmind while you go on dates, it may be appropriate to explain to your child where you are going.
Creating an environment of trust and transparency could encourage your child to be open with you about challenging topics as they grow up, including their own dating life when the time comes. As a single parent, you deserve to socialise and pursue a relationship. Just make sure that your child’s needs are being met and you continue to dedicate time and care toward their wellbeing and feeling of safety.
The first meeting
For the first few interactions between your child and your partner, meeting in a low-expectation, low-pressure environment can often help. You might want to consider meeting on neutral ground for the first few times, like at the park or the cinema.
It’s typically best to hold off on inviting your partner into the home with your children until your children are familiar with them. Even then, you might want to hold off on sleepovers until everyone feels safe and comfortable. Your child and partner might also spend time together in the home earlier on if you were to have a group of people over. If it’s easiest to spend time all together at home, consider hosting a BBQ or casual lunch where you invite other adults and children. You may even consider introducing your partner as a friend to give your child a chance to form a more relaxed opinion of them but this is completely up to you.
Even on neutral ground, you may prefer to introduce your partner as a ‘friend’ to avoid drawing attention to the significance of this person early on. This will usually also depend on the age of your child and their maturity. Your child will have lots of adults coming in and out of their lives, so allowing this person to seem like just another adult at first could help your child relax a bit more when getting to know them.
After they meet, encourage your child to share their thoughts with you. It’s important your child feels safe around a new partner. If they seem unsure or even dislike your partner, make sure to hear their feelings and validate the challenging emotions they’re going through.
New partners can represent a threat to some children. Make sure you reassure your child by making one-on-one time, reminding them how much you love them, and keeping them as your priority. You may also wish to consider waiting until your child is comfortable with your partner before being affectionate in front of your child.
When deciding to commit to a new partner, make sure to ask yourself if they’re a good fit for your family, as well as for you as a person. Give your children the opportunity to be honest about how they feel about your partner. They may need to spend more time together or draw certain boundaries – consider your child’s wellbeing when bringing new people into your home and family.
Ideally, your children will eventually see in your partner many of the good things you see, and hopefully, your partner will love your kids too. Take it slow and create a safe space for everyone to express themselves and get to know each other over time.
Remember that all children and relationships are different, for some the introduction of a new partner will come relatively easy and for others it might take longer or have its challenges.