How Long To Wait Before Introducing Your Children to A New Partner
March 10, 2023
Humans by nature are social creatures, so it’s only natural for you to eventually want to seek out companionship after a divorce. However, if there are children involved from your previous marriage, you will definitely want to take things very slowly when introducing them to someone new in your life. Doing so will not only spare your children from unnecessary heartache if things don’t work out in your new relationship, but it will typically make the acceptance of your new partner go quicker and be easier for everyone involved.
Although there is no exact timeframe set in stone regarding the length of time you should wait before introducing your children to the person you’re dating, there are some general guidelines that are worth following. Realistically, most dating relationships that fail do so within the first 9 to 12 months, so waiting to introduce your children until you’ve hit that mark makes sense. Since children tend to form emotional attachments more quickly than adults, introducing a new partner too soon could result in the child getting hurt again if the new relationship doesn’t work out. Studies have shown that children experiencing repeated losses such as this will negatively affect their long term mental health, their success in their own future relationships, as well as their relationship with you. Experts also agree that when a child is introduced to a parent’s new partner too quickly, they are more likely to either completely reject them (and occasionally the parent as well), or intentionally sabotage the new relationship.
Once you’ve made it successfully to the 9 to 12 month mark in your relationship and have determined that you and your significant other are committed to the relationship and are in it for the long haul, HOW you introduce your children can make a big difference in how quickly your kids accept both your new partner and the relationship. The first step should be telling the other parent beforehand that you’re planning on introducing the children to your new partner. Doing so prevents the other parent from being caught off guard and potentially upset and angry that they found out about the introduction through their children. If kids see their other parent upset because they weren’t told about this introduction taking place until after the fact, it may well cause the child to become upset as well, which in turn could result in them rejecting your new significant other.
Next, choosing a neutral location outside of your home for the initial introduction is important - even more so if there are very young children involved or if the other parent also lived in the home before the divorce. A small child may be more prone to feeling like you’re trying to replace the other parent, so having the first few meetings in a fun and neutral environment can help put them at ease and alleviate some of the stress.
You’ll also want to keep the initial introduction brief and avoid being physically affectionate with your significant other in front of your kids. Typically, an hour or so is a good start for the first few interactions. Watch your kids for any indication that they’re uncomfortable or not emotionally ready to meet your new partner. Don’t try to force them into long conversations immediately. They will be more comfortable with your new partner and the relationship with time, so taking it slowly and not trying to rush things is key.
After a few fun and easygoing outings, you can move on to inviting your partner over to your house for something like lunch, dinner, game night or movie night. Continue to avoid displays of physical affection with your partner in front of the kids, and continue to be mindful of how your children are handling things. If they seem stressed or uncomfortable, wrap things up for that day and try again on a different one.
Remember that it’s completely normal for there to be a period of adjustment for your kids before they completely accept your partner and the relationship. There may also be some hiccups along the way. Be patient and listen to any fears or concerns they may have. Don’t hesitate to get counseling from a family therapist if you feel that it will help. Ultimately, your children will adjust to this new normal and share in your excitement for this next chapter in your lives.