Family life has been changing with each new generation. An important factor contributing to this, is that many parents no longer stay in a relationship for the sake of the children. When the choices are staying in an unhappy relationship versus separated co-parents who are happier, children benefit more from happy parents as opposed to parents who continue living in a situation that does not make them happy or let them thrive.
With that, comes the inevitable introducing a new partner into your child’s life. The opinions are varied when it comes to this topic. When and how should you introduce your new partner to your children? While some might think it best to hold off for six to twelve months, others believe it best to introduce the children to your new partner when you and your partner have established how serious the relationship is, and when your children show a genuine interest in getting to know your partner.
Once you have been seeing your partner long enough that you are confident that they are going to play a significant role in your life, you might then start mentioning their name more frequently around your children. In doing so you will get their interest piqued.
Let them ask questions about your partner. At this stage, perhaps don’t mention that the person is your “partner”, but a friend that is very special. Once you start to notice your child showing an interest, they might be ready for the next step: video calling. This way, the kids can hear their voice and put a face to the name.
Further down the line, again following your child’s lead, you could suggest meeting your “friend” at a neutral place. Somewhere that your child feels comfortable and is excited about going to. The first meet should not be in their own home as you don’t want someone who may feel like a stranger infringing on your child’s territory until they are ready for it and asks for it themselves.
Before the initial meet, prepare your partner by informing them of your child’s interests. You want your child to feel relaxed and confident, and so topics that interest them will be an easy starting point. Give your partner space to initiate contact and conversation. A natural bond needs to be formed without you hovering and micromanaging the situation. Take a step back and let them interact casually. Be present, but from the background. Keep physical contact with your partner to an absolute minimum and continue to be your natural self with your child. Children easily pick up on uncertainty and insecurity so remember to keep it lighthearted and fun.
After the first meeting, when you’re back at home and chilled out, test the waters by asking your child what they thought of your “special friend” and hear them out. Really listening to their answer will help you gauge whether or not they are ready for you to reveal the true nature of the relationship. Keep this information to the bare minimum as you don’t want to overload your child.
When planning the second meeting, hold back a little while and wait to see if your child mentions meeting them again. Your child showing an interest without being pressured into it will work wonders on their own relationship with your partner moving forward.
No pressure, plenty of reassurance and fun, lightheartedness will make this transition easier for your kids, you and your partner. Always let there be an open dialogue where your child feels comfortable to ask questions.