Are you in love and thinking it's time to bridge the gap between your partner and your children? The reality is if your kids and your partner and perhaps your partner and his kids don't gel, you're going to have a tough time moving forward in your relationship. The only way to move it to the next level is to be sure your kids are stable and happy with this person. Of course, it's a hard call sometimes to decide when you're going to introduce someone to your children for numerous reasons. Here's a little go-to guide to decide on if now is the right time to introduce your new main squeeze and if you decide it is the right choice, some tips on how to handle the first meeting.
The Children's Mental State
How are your kids doing currently? If their father left abruptly or it's a divorce situation, your kids may still be grieving over the scenario. You know them best. If your kids are struggling in school and in daily life, now is not the time to introduce another change into their lives. If your kids are striving or at least doing well despite occasional bouts of missing dad or life as the old nuclear family, then it's safe to say your kids are probably as ready as they're going to be to meet someone new in your life.
Has it been enough time in between dad leaving and/or the divorce for your kids to need an additional change? Divorce brings up many life changes for kids and another one is not what they need right away, unless there's been some time between big life changes.
If you're a single mom from the get-go, this is probably not a factor for you unless the father of your child recently abandoned you. In that case, it's important to have grieving time for you and your child before another party joins the family, so to speak.
Is Your New Love Ready?
You may really be into this person, but be sure the person is as ready as you are to meet your kids. If there's any hesitancy, go with this and hold off before making introductions. The last thing you need is for someone to meet your kids and then two weeks later say, "Oopsie, that was a mistake."
OK, so you're not purchasing your new partner, but what I mean is, have you jumped into this relationship on an impulse with the hopes of making a new family for your kids or out of loneliness? Does this person really embody the values that you share and want your children to share?
You may feel wonderful around this person and giddy and free, but is this person a viable member of your family? Hormones and that amazing love feeling can push us to experiencing all kinds of warm fuzzy feelings but those warm fuzzy feelings don't necessarily translate into a lasting relationship that is worthy of bringing our children around and into.
Your Partner's Kids
If your partner has children, are you ready to meet them as well, because that's what is about to happen if you bring your children around. Intermixing a family can be a wonderful experience but it can also be very stressful if the children are not ready to be part of one new big "happy family."
Are You Prepared?
You may have the best new match in the world and think the person is amazing, but be prepared that even if your catch is the nicest in the world, your kids may not be as wowed. Or on the flip side, your children may be so jazzed and desperate for that family feeling as well that they may cling to this new person.
Be prepared for any reaction and whatever you do, keep an open line of communication with your kids to talk about the experience and how they feel. You don't want your abundant enthusiasm to squelch your kiddos from telling you your true feelings. Make it an open door policy and encourage them to share their feelings. Obviously your children do not decide who you get to be with, but at the same time hear them out. You are the mom and they are the kids and it's entirely possible that they may be closed-minded to any new person, but give them room to express themselves with you about the new love.
OK, You're Ready to Do It! Now What?
If you've decided you're ready to introduce the kids, be sure to do a few things.
- Tell the other parent, your ex, if he or she is around: if the other parent is present, let the parent know about this introduction and if at all possible, introduce your new love to your ex first before the kids.
- Pick a short time & easy location for the first meet: pick a short duration for the first meet up time so as not to overwhelm anyone. A sleepover is not a good first meeting! Ice cream, the park, or a play place is a nice easy first gathering and in fact, I place my bets that a park or play place is ten times better than an ice cream shop or dinner to meet a new partner. Kids will be relaxed and more active, which will help lower their stress levels, and they won't feel bought off like, "Oh here's ice cream or some bribe to like the new person." Plus, you can see how your new partner-in-crime interacts with the children on their level. Ice cream or food would be a lot of question and answer. A park or other play spot will be more interaction on a level kids know best: play.
- Gradually Increase Time Together: if all goes well, gradually increase the time that your new partner spends with the kids so no one feels rushed or forced to like each other.
Your new love may not gel with each or any of your kids right away. It takes time and remember, personalities may clash and that should be expected, especially if your partner has kids too. Be easy on everyone and take it slow. Kids can be resistant to liking a new partner for numerous reasons. Perhaps your child feels guilty liking another dad or mom because he or she feels liking a new person would be bad for their father or mother. Perhaps a kid just doesn't mix with your mate. And let's not forget if you're divorced, kids may just want their old family back together and this new person reminds them that that dream is dead and gone.
Take it easy, keep communication open, and be positive!