This article first appeared on GalTime.com
You thought dating was hard the first time? Here you are, single again, but this time with children. You finally meet someone you really, really like and want to introduce him to your kids. How do you go about it? What if your youngsters don’t like him? What if he doesn’t like them? What if it doesn’t work out?
Before you even think about introducing your children to your new boyfriend, you need to have been dating for at least six months. No, I’m not crazy. Didn’t your last relationship end in divorce? You don’t want that to happen again and you certainly don’t want your children to go through that again. It takes at least six months to begin to really know a person. You don’t want to introduce someone and one month later have to explain to your children why they don’t see “Mike” anymore.
I would also advise that you let your ex-husband know you are introducing someone to your children. It’s the respectful thing to do if you have a good relationship with him. Take your time. It’s not a race to the altar again. It’s not just your life; it’s your kid’s lives too. Here are a few ground rules for introducing a new love to your children.
1. No Expectations: This is a casual event. You can’t force anyone to like anyone. Telling your children they have to be nice or like someone is a sure fire way to ruin the meeting. Let everyone meet and form their own opinions.
2. Group Setting: Have the first five meetings in a group setting. For instance, a backyard BBQ with friends and your new man. You should introduce him as a friend and give your children the chance to get to know your guy in a fun, relaxed, no pressure atmosphere. A group setting allows children to feel non-threatened. It’s best not to show affection during these first five meetings. He’s just a friend right now.
3. Go Slowly: Remember, you might be in love, but your children need time to get used to a new situation. Follow their cues. If you sense they are having issues, talk to them. Slow down if you have to. Trust me, going slow now will ensure you have success later.
4. One Mom, One Dad : Reassure your children that they only have one mom and one dad. No one will replace either of you. I told my children this a few months after I introduced my then boyfriend to them. My son actually liked my boyfriend so much he wanted to call him dad. I had to take him aside and say, “I am so glad you like him! But you only have one mom and one dad.” He was only five years old, so I kept it age appropriate.
5. Rules for the New Family : As you begin to settle in together as a new group, it’s important for you to discuss how it plays out with your new partner. Have a long talk about expectations, discipline, money, education and anything else you might deal with. It’s a big deal merging families. You want your children to be happy in this new environment.
Dating after divorce can be tricky, but if you take your time and navigate the right way, it can be a win-win for everyone. Here’s my story.
I dated my boyfriend (now my husband) for six months before I introduced him to my children. I had to be sure he would be in my life in for a long time. I decided to slowly introduce him as a friend. I had a pool party with about four adult guests, him being one of them. I just introduced him as a friend. We did about five more group outings before he came to do things with just me and my two children. We slowly began doing fun kids things with just the four of us. We waited another four months before we showed any affection (hand holding, kissing) in front of them. After that, we slowly started holding hands and told the kids he was my boyfriend. Three years and six months later — we are one super happy family and all because we took it slowly. I love my children too much to rush into anything with anyone.
Make sure you are in love and take your time; if he’s a great guy and you move slowly, your children will see how great he is too!
Do you have a different story? What worked or didn’t work for you?
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By Marina Sbrochi, author of Stop Looking For A Husband: Find the Love of Your Life