Introducing a new partner—and potential parental figure—into your children’s life can be difficult for them, whether or not they remember you splitting up with their other parent. If you’re sure you’re in for the long haul with your partner, you can’t keep these aspects of your life separate forever. Introducing your kids to your new partner may not go smoothly at first, but if you know how to handle the situation, you can lessen the awkwardness and stress all around.
Wait a Few Months at Minimum
It’s natural to feel a rush of excitement and infatuation when you hit it off well with your date. However, your kids need consistent adult presences in their lives, not a revolving door of their parents’ new boyfriends and girlfriends. Early on, you can’t say for certain whether your relationship will work out, so let your kids know you’re dating, but wait a few months before you introduce your partner to your kids. Of course, in that time, make sure your partner is open to a future with children. Even if he doesn’t want kids of his own, he’d have to embrace being a parental figure to your kids to be with you in the long term.
Plan an Activity
Forcing an awkward introduction may get your children to reluctantly nod and wave, but they’ll retreat to their rooms soon after. Instead, plan an activity for the introduction. Plan a calm event, like going out for dinner together, that allows all parties a chance to talk. If your partner also has kids, consider delaying introducing all the to one another until after the initial partner meeting so that no one feels overwhelmed.
Guide the Conversation
You’re the one thing that your partner and kids are guaranteed to have in common. Don’t get upset if your kids go quiet and don’t have much to say, perhaps because they’re shy or because they’re resistant to this change. Encourage conversation by posing questions to both your kids and your partner to get them to speak. Ask your partner to talk about her life, her family, and any hobbies or activities she’s interested in that may intrigue your children. For example, if you have an avid gamer among your children and your partner likes playing video games, they may be able to connect in that way.
In time, you, your kids, and your partner will get used to operating as a new family unit—it’s just a matter of getting over that initial meeting and the few weeks afterward. As long as your children understand that your relationship with them won’t change, they’ll retain the level of consistency they long for. If your partner is cooperative and patient, you should have few problems.