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Introducing a new partner to your kids

Adult male shakes hands with young boy

Whenever divorced parents decide to start seeing someone new, it is important to use caution when introducing a new boyfriend/girlfriend to the kids. Kids have varying reactions to the new person in a parent’s life, and that reaction can depend greatly on the way you approach the introduction.

Not Too Soon

Children depend on security and reliability, especially after a divorce.  Make sure that your new partner is committed to the relationship and will be around for a long time before introducing the children.  Casual dates should never be introduced to children, because it can create confusion, jealousy and resentment. A good guideline for new introductions should be around 6 months.

Be considerate of your former spouse

Divorcing parents should consider their former spouse whenever introducing a new partner, for several reasons.  First, be clear with your children that a new boyfriend or girlfriend is not intended to replace the other parent. One approach is to let your children know that the new person is there to support you emotionally and for now, simply be a friend to them. Also, inform your former spouse about the situation, because his or her opinion of your new partner will often determine how your kids view that person.  Open and honest communication can help alleviate the distrust and jealousy that can arise when they find out about it the wrong way.  Also, do not disparage your ex-spouse in front of the kids, especially to your new partner, because this can create the impression that the new partner is an adversary of your former spouse, and therefore an adversary of your children.

Make the introduction in public

Divorced parents should consider making the first introduction of a new partner in a public place. Having it be part of a group event with other adults around can be helpful.  Some people start by introducing the new person as a friend, and letting the children interact with the adult on several occasions before informing the children about the relationship.  This approach allows the children to become friendly with the person with developing the feeling of jealousy and intimidation that can go along with sharing a parent with a new person.

However you decide to proceed, keep in mind that your children are the most important consideration, and be mindful of your former spouse as well.  Taking things slow and making the introductions gradually can help everyone make a healthy adjustment to a new member of the family.

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