You finally took some time to yourself, let go of the past, put your heart out on the line, and have fallen in love with someone you think you could have a future with. The only problem is that now you hope your children will do the same with your new love. As a single mother who has found a serious new partner, how do you know when to introduce your new boyfriend and what is the best way to do so. Here are some tips from solo mamas that have been there and done that and had a successful transition.
While it seems obvious, you don’t want to rush to introduce your kids to your boyfriend if you’re not sure your relationship will be serious and a long-term commitment. If your dating life is erratic, skip introductions until you have been with someone a long time. One of the best things you can do is to set up a time line that works for both you and your boyfriend. Many parents make a rule that they won’t introduce anyone to the kids until they’ve dated for three, six, or even 9 months. The reasoning behind this is that the children may judge, harbor resentment, or feel hostile towards your boyfriend and potentially sabotage a good relationship. The children may also feel very disappointed and angry if a relationship doesn’t work out, and this may lead to them always feeling protective of you when you begin to date again.
Your boyfriend may feel you aren’t serious until you introduce him to the kids, but you can explain that your kid’s feelings come first and that you want to introduce him when it feels best for everyone. This time together apart from the kids also builds the bond between you and your boyfriend before throwing in the dynamic of balancing the kids. This rule doesn’t mean that you cant introduce your children to your partner as “only a friend” until you feel it is more serious; but do know that kids have great intuition and can tell when you are more than “just friends”. Only someone that understands that is worth keeping!
You also need to make sure that your new beau is ready to meet the kids. Many men may not be ready to commit to a whole family. He should be eager to meet your parents and the children and earn their trust. This should come in time, and if it doesn’t then it is time to call it off. If you are dating a dad that is also a single parent and both of your children know each other well, then the transition may be smooth and not a surprise when you announce you are dating.
The next thing you need to do is to consider your child’s age. Young children might feel threatened and get clingy or emotional if they aren’t ready to see mom with someone else. You may find that one of your children feels possessive of you and isn’t very open to sharing you. You need to slowly introduce your partner and begin doing activities together that your child can open up to the idea of mommy being around someone else. You can talk more openly with an older child, but wait until they tell you they are ready to meet the new person in your life. You must do lots of listening so the children feel heard. Try to view the world from your children’s point of view. They may feel protective of your ex-husband or possessive of you. Be sure to listen to them if they express these feelings. Sometimes a single mom’s teenage kids may even welcome the idea of her dating. With older children you don’t want to push them into creating relationships just because they want to see mom happy and they think this is what you want. Allow the relationships to evolve slowly and naturally over time. Explain to your children, no matter their age, that your boyfriend is not a new “daddy” or another “parent” just someone who can be a good friend to them.
Teach your boyfriend, especially one with little experience with kids, what to expect from children of their age. Temper tantrums may be the norm for you, but if he has ever seen he repulses one he may think you child. Make sure he knows your children’s names and that he calls them by name. Give hints he can use to bond with them like their favorite activities and subjects in school. Remind him that he is dating “you” and not the kids, and doesn’t need to bring them gifts and overly assertive attention to win them over.
The bottom line is to not let your feelings of guilt or fears of introducing the new boyfriend hold you from happiness and finding love again. Don’t make it a “do or die” outcome if your child is indifferent or unfriendly to the new guy in your life; in fact just expect some resistance. Your kids will learn to understand that there are things in life you need that make you happy, and when you’re happy, everybody’s happy!