Divorce can be complicated and that is especially true if you have kids. As complicated as it is to end a relationship, creating a new one with children in the picture is even worse. Being widowed is no picnic either as you are suddenly thrown without warning into the single-parent world.
There are a plethora of pitfalls that can come when you are a parent who is dating. There are bound to be awkward moments, a few mistakes and maybe some intense conversations, but being aware of possible problems and thinking through handling the situation before it you make decisions about the relationship will serve you well.
Below are 10 things you should know before you introduce your new love interest to your kids.
- Take your time. Some say you should be in a relationship at least six months before you introduce your new love to your kids. While there isn’t a specific time period to wait before you bring them over to the house, you should wait until the relationship hits a more serious level before you make introductions.
- Make sure you know all about them before letting them near your kids. There are a lot of criminal cases that happen because a parent – usually the mother – allows their love interest be alone with their children before they even know them. Some even let them move in. These new partners sometimes end up being charged with murder of assault of a child, child molestation and child pornography among other heinous crimes.
Your children should be a priority in your life. You must put their safety and security above all else, including dating, romance and love. Do what you need to do to make sure they remain safe. Get to know the other person well. Meet their friends, their siblings, and get to know their background. It may seem strange, but you may even need to do a background check before pursuing a dating relationship.
- Talk to your kids about your dating. Don’t provide details of your dates or your feelings, but talk to them about your need to date and what you are looking for in a mate. Be open with them about whether you are getting serious with a particular person. Bring their name up and tell them about the person so they feel comfortable when they do meet your new love.
- Introduce them to your kids before you get too serious. You want to be sure the children like them and the feeling is mutual before you invest more emotional energy and time in the relationship. It would be a bad thing to find out after you are ready to commit that the love of your life loathes your children.
- Find out about their parenting styles. This can be a source of conflict in blended families because each parent feels their style is best. It can also be confusing to children on both sides if the “new” parent insists on certain discipline principles or actions. It can cause children to become angry too if their parent gives in to the other new parent’s style without explanation.
- Don’t move forward in the relationship until your child is ready. Some of this depends on the age of the child and how long you have been divorced or widowed. There are some children who want you to find someone else because it will complete their family or make you happier. Others find it difficult to let go of the family they once knew and will not like anyone you date.
This is why it is important to talk to your child about your plans to date. You can gauge their feelings based on this delicate conversation. Hold off if they aren’t ready. If you date when they aren’t ready, they will see you as being selfish and it will interfere with your relationship with them forever.
Once you start dating, you can include them in some aspects of getting ready or making plans. As they feel more comfortable, you will feel better about introducing them to your prospective partner.
- Don’t get serious or plan to marry until your children are on board.
Children have an insight you may be ignoring because you are letting your feelings overtake your judgement.
Back off of any relationship if your children are uncomfortable or disagree with it. While you don’t want your children to run your life and you certainly don’t need their permission, a relationship that children disapprove of is headed for disaster.
Try to find out why they are having issues with your new person. Did this new partner do something to them, say something to them? Is it too soon? Do they want you to get back with your ex? It would be good to have an honest talk with them to find out why they have these negative feelings.
- Set a good dating example for your kids.
Remember your kids are watching you and everything you do. They will pay attention to how you date and who you date. They will remember it and probably emulate it as they move into their dating years. Make this time a good teachable moment for them.
- Don’t get physical with your new love in front of your children when they are just getting to know them.
Getting to know someone your parent is dating is awkward for any child of any age. Don’t make it worse by showing a lot of physical affection to your partner. Keep it family-friendly in front of the kids and let your private lives be off limits to your children. Definitely do not plan any overnight trips with both your new partner and kids until you are married.
- Let your kids meet their kids. If you are thinking about having a blended family, you need to know if the kids will blend. They may feel awkward at first and may not really like each other because they don’t know each other. So, you should try this a couple of times to see if they warm up to the idea. If they terrorize each other and just can’t get along, you should probably rethink your relationship.
As a single parent, you must think practically about new relationships before plunging into one. It is a package deal with you and your kids and your decisions will affect them for a lifetime. It is incredibly important to be selective in who you date and eventually commit too. They must accept your kids and your kids must accept them for it to work. Careful choices will bring joy to your house while impulsive, unwise decisions will bring heartache.