When you’re a single parent, dating can be terrifying, enjoyable and intriguing—all at the same time! But even as you’re finding happiness in a new love relationship, as a parent, the question always remains in the back of your mind, “When should I introduce my children to the person I’m dating?” Here’s some solid advice to help guide you…
When should I introduce the person I am dating to my children?
While there isn’t a 100% correct answer to this question, you want to be sure that you’ve given your new relationship enough time to know that you’re compatible and interested in being together for the long-term. Consider some of these factors before you start making the plan to introduce your kids:
- What are the ages and emotional maturity levels of your children?
- How long have you been dating this person?
- How long have you been separated or divorced?
- How well do you know the person you are dating?
- Do you have a plan for how the introduction should take place?
- How aware are your children that you are dating and have a special person in your life?
When introducing your children to the person you are serious about dating, the biggest factor to consider is not to surprise them. Talk with your children individually in an age-appropriate way about what is happening in your life without giving them unnecessary details. Once your relationship is at a place where you think an introduction is important, simply tell your children that you’d like them to meet him or her, and then include them in the plans. Take it slow, and be prepared for more discussion, but don’t back down or be secretive.
One of the easiest ways to ease the transition from dating to introducing your boyfriend or girlfriend to your children, is to make sure you address your child’s concerns before you even begin dating. Children often perceive dating as a threat to their time with you. Will you still go to their dance recital or basketball games? Will a new boyfriend or girlfriend have rules they will need to follow? By having open and honest conversations with your children about what dating means and how your lives may change (or stay the same), you’ll develop strong bonds of understanding.
It’s also essential that your children know it’s important for you to spend social time with other adults – just as they need to have time socializing with their friends. Encourage your children to talk about their feelings, but remember to stay firm in your resolve and not allow them to make the decision about whether you should socialize with other adults or date someone. If you sense your child is trying to manipulate you when it comes to dating, understand that they may be feeling the sense of losing control. You can often put an end of negative or manipulative behavior by showing, through both words and action, that the person you are dating isn’t going to replace them in your life. During this time, try to make sure you schedule activities that just you and your child can do together – without the person you are dating – to reinforce and assure them that you love and care for them just as much as before.
After you’ve had conversations with your children about your relationship, then you can start to take steps for everyone to meet one another. Depending on the ages of your children, a first introduction involving an activity – such as meeting at a playground or a sporting event – may be a comfortable way for everyone to meet one without the pressures of making conversation. Once your children have a positive first experience, then you can set-up another introductory time together, either at your home or a restaurant, that is idea for more in-depth discussions.
And don’t forget, when it comes to getting tips and suggestions about how to introduce the person you’re dating to your children, reach out to other single parents and those who have experience with child and adolescent behaviors. In the Fort Collins and Northern Colorado areas, there are a number of resources available to help you navigate this important time in a successful manner. Here are just a few to consider:
- Growing Up Fort Collins
- Fort Collins Families
- Northern Colorado Single Parent Families Meet-up Group
With some thought and planning on your part, you’ll be able to enjoy dating and establishing new relationships, while ensuring that your children’s emotional needs are being met in a happy and healthy way.