A new relationship after a divorce can be an exciting, but complicated, time. There's no shortage of hard questions to consider when getting back into dating as a divorced parent, and perhaps no question is more complicated than when to introduce your child to your new partner. If you believe you're ready, here are 5 helpful steps that may make the transition easier for all involved.
Step 1: Make Sure You, and Your Partner, are Ready
Introductions can have a huge impact not only on children of divorced parents, but on new partners as well. If you're considering introducing someone to your child, bring up the topic to your partner to make sure they're as ready for this step in your relationship as you are. Address topics such as what meeting your child would mean for your relationship and what your expectations are after the introduction. If they decide they're not ready, allow them the time they need until they are fully committed to what meeting your child will mean for you and for them. This is not only a new situation for you and your child, but your partner as well. Waiting until everyone involved is comfortable and ready will pay off in the long run.
Step 2: Talk with Your Child about Your Relationship Before the Introduction
If you’ve been dating someone for a while and feel relatively confident that you are heading toward commitment, talk to your child and explain that you are dating someone who you care about and that you’d like to introduce to them. Ask them if they have any questions and validate their emotional responses to this new adjustment. No child wants to be introduced to a stranger, make sure you have talked to your child in length about your new partner as well as the possibility of an introduction.
Step 3: Have Realistic Expectations of the Introduction
Divorced parents and their new partners may feel overwhelming pressure to pull off the perfect initial introduction, and that can make managing expectations difficult. Adopt realistic expectations about your child’s reaction to the introduction of your new partner to keep from feeling pressured to make everything perfect. Keep in mind that these introductions are likely just the first step toward what will hopefully be lifelong connections. Remember, there will be more opportunities for new partners and children to build strong relationships and that bond does not have to be made the first time around.
Step 4: Introduce Your New Partner on Common Ground
Ask your child where they’d like to go and invite them into the introduction planning process if they're old enough to make those decisions. The last thing you want as a parent is for your child to feel that their personal space, such as their home, is being invaded by a stranger. A common space, such as a park, is a great place for children to meet a new partner and not have it overwhelm them. This common ground also takes the pressure off from having to talk to an adult that they are unfamiliar with. Keep the first meeting short and low key.
Step 5: Remember to Take it Slow
Children need time to adjust to their new normal, and it can take time for them to come to terms with divorce. If you introduce them to a partner you're dating casually or to several new partners, it may complicate their adjustment. Don’t rush and/or force an introduction between your child and new partner before they're both ready. By allowing your child to process and warm-up to your new love, you will see a more successful bond between your new partner and child.
You, your partner, and most importantly your child, deserve to feel comfortable and supported during this new stage of your relationship. By taking the time for a considered approach, a positive transition for everyone concerned is more likely.
Need more post-divorce advice? Visit our blog for more information about life and dating after divorce.