You have a lot on your mind when getting divorced. From your kids to your finances and everything in between, your life is changing. One of the most common questions that comes up is “How long a parent should wait after a divorce before you introduce a new partner to your children?” While the answer to this question is going to vary based on a range of factors, including the age of the kids, there are a few pointers that you can keep in mind.
Let the Kids Heal from the Divorce First
Divorce is traumatic for the kids. While it’s no picnic for you either, think about it from their perspective for a minute. Their parents, who have always been together, are now splitting. It is fundamentally changing their lives on just about every level. So many things in their life will change going forward.
All of this is a lot to process, and you can’t expect the kids to be on board with everything as quickly as you are. They need time to heal from the divorce before you think about introducing them to a new partner.
Even though you might have already completed the divorce six months ago or longer, your kids might still be holding out hope that you will get back together with their father or mother. You have no intentions of doing so, but the kids are still coming to terms with this.
If they see you are dating someone else, and you introduce them to this new person, they will see them as competition for their mom or dad. Things aren’t likely to go well.
By taking a bit more time, the kids will realize that their parents aren’t going to be getting back together. This can make it easier for you to first introduce the idea that you might be dating again.
However, this doesn’t mean that you should immediately let them meet someone you are dating. Take it slow. Let them get used to the idea of you dating first without needing to know who it is.
Don’t Introduce the Kids to People You Are Casually Dating
If you are dating, but you aren’t in a serious relationship—at least not yet—do not bother introducing the person to your kids. Why would you introduce your kids to someone that you might not be seeing a week or a month from now? What if the kids like this person and then they are suddenly gone from their lives, too? You don’t want the kids to have to deal with another breakup.
It’s always better to wait. Make sure that you are in a serious relationship that seems like it has the legs to go somewhere before making an introduction.
Don’t Put the Partner Before the Kids
Although no parent will tell you they would ever put their new partner ahead of their kids, it happens with alarming frequency. Sometimes, parents might not even be fully aware they are doing this. They are so happy that they have found someone new and that they are getting to live their life again that they don’t always think about how their actions are affecting the kids.
If you are spending more and more time with the new partner and less and less time with your kids, it’s a problem. If you are prioritizing what this new partner wants or needs and you are making them more important than your kids, you have to reevaluate things. Take a step back.
Make the First Meeting Casual
There shouldn’t be a lot of pressure for the first time your kids meet your new partner. Try to make things nice and casual when you introduce a new partner to your children. Whether it’s meeting them for a few minutes before heading out on a date, or it’s taking everyone to the park, make sure it’s a low-pressure situation.
Also, don’t plan an event that is similar to the types of things you used to do with the other parent.
For example, if you and their dad always took the kids to the beach on Sundays and then out for ice cream, you don’t want to do that with the kids and the new partner. The kids will feel that you are trying to replace their father.
Keep in mind that you also need to talk with your partner about the introduction. Don’t just spring it on them all of a sudden and think they will be okay with it. They need to be ready, too.
Are They a Good Fit for the Family?
Although you might feel blinded by the honeymoon stage of a new relationship, you need to make sure you are realistic. You know your kids and the family dynamic you have better than anyone else does. Before you introduce someone new to this dynamic, you have to make sure they are going to be a good fit even though you are only dating right now.
This doesn’t mean that you want them to be the person you spend the rest of your life with or someone you want to marry in the future. It just means that they are going to work well with the “vibe” you and your family have right now.
There Is No Hurry
This is one of the most important things to keep in mind. Even though you might be happy with the person you are dating right now, there is no rush when considering when to introduce a new partner to your children. You shouldn’t feel ashamed that you are dating again, and you also shouldn’t feel that you need to justify your moving forward by doing so too early.
Also, you know your kids well. You may know that your kids aren’t going to do well yet if you were to introduce someone new. They might need a few more months or longer. On the other hand, you may have kids that are encouraging you to move on and feel that it’s time they met the new someone special in your life. Every family is different.