Introducing a significant other to your kids is an important turning point, not only for your relationship with the person you are dating but also for your relationship with them. Deciding when the time is right to make an introduction will turn on many factors, which may include whether or not your divorce is final, the ages of your children, and your children’s state of mind. Every situation differs, and some relationships move more quickly than others. Whatever your situation may be, if you are contemplating an introduction, you should consider the following issues first.
To start, are you divorced yet? If you are separated, and there is no explicit agreement between you and your spouse, it is best to consult with a lawyer before making any introductions. As parents and caregivers, you want to be careful not to rush children into feeling as though they have to accept a new adult into their lives. They may be confused about the role this new person will have, especially if they are still adjusting to a new living situation. Likewise, the introduction of a significant other could lead to emotional trauma if and when there is a breakup down the road, so you want to be as sure as you can be that your relationship is a solid one.
Judges prefer introductions to occur slowly and with a planned timetable. There are obvious questions a new significant other will ask, such as “Who is this person?” and “Will this person be a positive influence on the children’s lives?” Not only will you want to know this but so, too, will your children’s other parent. Not to mention, your kids will probably have questions of their own, some of which may be of an intimate nature and surprise you.
Where a parent is absent (whether by court order or choice), children may be looking for a parental replacement figure. You want to be mindful that anyone who may fill the role (intentionally or not) should be sticking around for a while. As much as possible you want to keep from creating a revolving door of “significant” others passing through your house.
It should be expected, or at least anticipated, that children may feel some resentment toward a parent’s new romantic interest. A mother or father who is making an introduction should stress to their children that this new individual is not replacing their other parent but will, instead, take on a separate role, perhaps after some time passes as a friend.
Of course, one of the most obvious risks of introducing a significant other to children is the effect doing so will have on the other parent, who may become jealous and, as a result, hostile or vindictive toward you. Just as when navigating children’s feelings, it may be necessary to consider your former or soon-to-be former spouse’s even if you do not care what he or she thinks, at a minimum just to preserve the peace.
Moving on with your life is as much a part of the divorce process as any other and a fact of life your children and former spouse must deal with, whether they like it or not. Unfortunately, the husband or wife who moves on first usually has the easier time of it because that person benefits from the love and support of another.
To make the transition as seamless as possible for all those involved – you, your children, your spouse and, let us not forget, the significant other who gets thrown into the crossfire, you may feel as though you are doing a lot of juggling to protect everyone else’s feelings. But no matter what and how much you do, I can assure you that you will not be able to please everyone, and you are entitled to live your life, too. For the time being, put yourself in their shoes, remembering that one day the shoe will most definitely be on the other foot.