You’ve finally met someone that you really like, and you want to make him part of your life. But when it comes to your kids, you’re protective. The last thing you want is a revolving door of men in their lives, particularly when they’ve already been through so much if they’ve gone through a divorce.
There’s no one-size-fits all approach to introducing a boyfriend to your children, but there are some good rules of thumb to go by.
1. Give your relationship some time
Think on how many relationships you’ve had in your lifetime. How many that you thought could be “the one” did not in fact end up in forever after? This isn’t meant to be discouraging. Relationships are a wonderful way to connect and experience life, regardless of the outcome.
But one man after another in your life can be difficult and confusing for children. Three months should be sufficient time to make sure your relationship has sticking power. It will also allow you to get to know him well enough to make sure he’s the kind of man you want your kids around.
Don’t rush it. Enjoy your time alone together before you introduce children into the picture.
2. Follow the natural order of things
Chances are you and your boyfriend weren’t a couple the moment you met. Don’t expect your children to adjust to him that quickly either. Let them get to know him first as a friend. Particularly if this is the first person you’ve introduced them to since daddy, or if you were previously in another serious relationship, they need time to adjust to seeing you with someone new. Don’t throw it at them at full speed.
Meet up casually at a park or somewhere neutral for the first few times you bring him around the kids. Refrain from romantic talk or touching. Plan a game or other fun activity together that the kids would enjoy.
Let your children get to know him organically, just like you did.
3. Allow children to move at their own pace
Don’t force your children to embrace your new relationship right away. They may still harbor resentment because of a divorce or wishful thinking that mom and dad will get back together. Children experience life-changing events in stages, and seeing you with someone new may trigger powerful feelings they need to work through.
Be considerate if your children don’t seem interested in spending a lot of time with your new boyfriend. You can’t force them to love him like you do. If the relationship is healthy and thriving, chances are in time your children will warm up to the idea. In the mean time, allow them a little time and space to adjust.
4. Do some prep work
Before the first introduction, prepare the situation by telling your boyfriend about your children: their personalities, what they like and don’t like, etc. This will make him feel more comfortable about the situation he’s getting into and help him to cater the conversations and activities to the children. Remember, it can be daunting for a man to meet the children, as well.
Prepare your children by name-dropping here and there, perhaps when you’re about to call or he’s calling you. This way when you meet up altogether, it isn’t the first time they’ve ever heard of this new person. A slight connection between you and he will already be established in their minds.
5. Spend quality time with your children
With someone new in your life, your children might feel like they are being replaced, or at the very least that they won’t be able to see mommy as much. You might be crazy about this new man in your life, but don’t let it interfere with your time with the children. If you’re spending less time with them, they’ll see him as an intrusion in your lives. And they might be right if you let him overwhelm all your time. And you’ll be left with regrets if it doesn’t work out.
You may want to schedule even more time with the kids since they may feel particularly vulnerable at this time. Consider overcompensating with extra time and attention to your children so they feel secure that you will always be right there for them, like you always have.
Having a new relationship is wonderful and something you are probably excited to share with the world and especially those who matter most to you: your children. But taking time and extra care to incorporate him into your life will pay dividends down the road.
Written by Caroline Kingsley
Caroline Kingsley is a single mom, marketer, blogger and former journalist.