Okay Dad, so you met someone.
She’s beautiful, she gets you and she’s cool with the fact that you’re divorced with kids and loves the fact that you’re co-parenting. Congrats. And, you think it’s the right time to introduce her to your kids. Don’t do it unless you’ve gone through this pre-flight checklist.
What is your timing?
Have you been separated/divorced for a few weeks? Few months? Few years? This question matters because you may be over the divorce but don’t expect your kids to be on the same timeline as you. Depending on their age and their situation it may take years for them to go through the pain and grieving for the loss of your breakup.
Is it part of your divorce agreement that you need to let your ex-wife know before you introduce someone to the kids? You may want to let her know as a courtesy, prior to the meeting. Your ex-wife may go DefCon 8 when she finds out from the kids that they just met their ‘New Mommy’. Think things through and…
It may serve you and your wants and needs to integrate your new girlfriend into your life but it can cause anguish for everyone – especially children who are probably holding on to the idea that their parents will eventually get back together. It may take time for your children to accept a new person in their life.
Another important consideration when introducing your kids to a new love interest is their age. Young children (under age 10) can feel confused, angry, or sad since they tend to be possessive of their parents. Renowned researcher, Constance Ahrons, Ph.D., conducted a study of children of divorce, concluded that most children find their parent’s courtship behaviors confusing and strange. Don’t assume your kids are rolling with the punches, Dad. And don’t assume you can start having her for sleepovers. Take it slow, Cowboy.
Consider how she fits into the family.
You get along great but how will she blend into the family setting. Is she a Peacemaker or Instigator? Is she single with no kids and may be overwhelmed with an Instant Family? This is not necessarily a trivial mental exercise, it allows you to think things through. Understand if you are already moving toward a committed relationship and welcoming her into your family’s life and will have the potential to affect your kids lives you want to be sure you’re making sound decisions.
Remember, even if your kids are young, they are watching you and looking for assurances. If she is worthy and you both are moving forward in the healthiest way, be generous and communicate often with your children. Keep the focus on them and their needs.
It may not be received well.
Don’t be surprised if your children reject your new partner at first. Some kids express anger or defiance and may even threaten to move out – or go to live with their other parent full-time. Adopt realistic expectations (low, that is) about your children’s acceptance of your new partner. Just because you are enthralled with this person, it doesn’t mean that your kids will share your enthusiasm.
Prior, during and after they meet her, let them know that she is a close/special friend but also let them know you have an abundance of love to go around. It’s crucial that you assure your kids that your partner will not replace the other parent or change your relationship with them.
This should not deter you from introducing her to them, simply think it through. Depending on your kid’s age, you may want to get them involved in choosing when and where you meet her. This is an empowering act for all. Chances are you want to keep it short, perhaps coffee or lunch. Make sure it is not at the house and instead it is someplace neutral. Maybe one of the kid’s favorite/special lunch place will work best. If she is a parent, as well, ask her to keep the meeting simple and not bring her kids too. It will keep the dynamic a bit more simplified and focused.
Play it cool, keep it all casual and downplay it so they have little to bristle too.