You’re a single parent. Whether divorced or widowed, eventually you’re going to want to start dating. One of the most common questions is “How and when do I introduce my new partner into my child’s life?”
Here are the top ten tips on dating after kids
1) Is your new partner a keeper or just a fling?
Don’t introduce your kids to anyone new if they’re not going to be around for the long haul. Remember you already got divorced once, so make sure you’ve dated for at least 6 months before introducing your kids to a new partner. Yes, that’s right, 6 months of solid commitment. If this is just a summer romance or a rebound keep the kids out of this. See your fling when your kids are with their other parents or sleeping over at their friend’s homes.
2) Is your new partner too eager to meet your kids or too eager to introduce you to their kids?
Being too eager to meet our kids after a few dates can be a warning sign. What’s the rush? Yes, it’s important for your new partner gets along with your children but keep your children’s best interest at heart and ensure this romance is going to last. It’s too painful for your kids to meet a string of people coming and going in and out of their lives.
3) Time Lines
Remember your children don’t recover from change the same way you do. Unless there was a lot of divorce discussion, your children probably did not hear about your divorce until just before it occurred. Your kids have had less time to adjust to the idea that their world is changing. You can’t expect your kids to be ready for someone new in their life just because you’re ready. Proceed with caution.
4) Take advantage of your shared custody
Schedule your dates when your children are with their other parent. This gives you the privacy you need to develop a relationship, be intimate and have adult sleepovers without getting your kids involved. Be creative, schedule dates when the kids are at after school programs, school trips, sleep overs at friend’s homes or trade off “play dates” with another parent to give yourself time to socialize.
5) One Mom, One Dad
Reassure your children that no one will replace either of you. Kids do worry that your new partner will replace their Mom or Dad or that you expect them to call your new partner “Mom” or “Dad”. Your kids need your reassurance that it’s OK for them not to love your new love but they need to be respectful. This is especially true if your children are older and have become accustomed to have you all to themselves.

6) Talk to your new partner about each other’s children
Both you and your partner may have kids. If you’ve decided this person is a keeper, now is the time to talk about how you raise your children, what are your house rules (his and hers), and your expectations for a future life together. When two families get together it’s more like an amalgamation then a blending of families. It’s important for you both to understand the dynamics of each family. Have a long talk about family expectations, discipline, money, education, holidays, vacations, and anything else you believe is important. It’s a big deal merging kids and families together.

7) Introduce your new partner slowly and in small doses
The day has come for your special someone to meet your children. Choose an event where no one has to be not the centre of attention. Choose to have the kids meet at an event that involves other adults, visit a children’s museum or a kid friendly attraction or event, or head out for a yummy treat. It’s best to keep it short and sweet for the first few visits. Limit PDA or public displays of affection for the first 5 or 6 visits. You want your kids to get to know this person as your friend first. Ensure your date knows your kids’ needs come first, so you may have to head home if someone gets tired or sick and your attention will be on your children and their enjoyment first.

8) Manage your expectations
Junior may not be enamored with your choice. Remember you don’t need your child’s approval. If you’ve been single for a while, your child may experience feelings of jealousy and anger. Go slowly so our children can adjust to changes in your life and their lives. It really is up to your new partner to build up the relationship with your child. Don’t except your older child to be crazy over your partner right away. They are old enough to express themselves. All children may feel conflict between being loyal to their other parent if they “like“ your new partner. It takes time for people to create new relationships. Give them time and space to adjust to your new partner and to get to know them.

9) Be open with your children
Communicate to your children in an age appropriate manner. Communication with your kids involves both talking to your children in an open and honest manner, and listening to their feelings and opinions too. Listen to how they feel about your partner. If they are uncomfortable about your partner, no matter how painful it is to hear the news, take the time to understand how your child feels.

10) Time, patience & love
Make sure now that you have a new love, you don’t disappear on your children. Yes, love is infatuating and we know how great it feels to be held by someone who loves us. But make sure you spend quality time with your children. Don’t be spending hours on the phone while your kids are still awake. They still need you. Spending time with your kids reminds them how special they are to you and helps your children feel that your new partner is not there to steal you from them.

Remember it took time for you to build this relationship with your new partner and it will take time for your children and your partner to develop a special relationship as well. When it comes to introducing your kids to your new love interest, wait, wait, wait. Proceed slowly and give your children the time and attention they need from you.

Author's Bio: 

Nataxja Cini, MSW RSW, CCC, is the founder and a therapist at Family-Therapy located in Ottawa, the nation’s capital. She has been interviewed by Today’s Parent’s magazine, feature on TV, national radio, and newspapers to talk about relationships, couple issues, and raising children. Her passion is to help couples and families enrich their relationships. Nataxja Cini can be reached at info@family-therapy.ca.