Is there an ideal time to introduce my new partner to my family and kids?
After you go through a divorce with kids, it will take time and patience for your family to heal and adjust. Everyone is going to have to get comfortable with a new dynamic and way of living. Over time, you and your children’s lives will get into a routine, and it will be time for you to move on and begin dating again. When you have been seeing someone for a while, it may be hard to know when to bring them completely into your life. Is there an ideal time to introduce my new partner to my family and kids?
It’s Okay to Take Your Time
Bringing a new adult into your children's lives too early could up creating problems on multiple levels. Depending on how things ended with your ex, your kids may need time to process the divorce before they are ready to meet your new partner. If they aren't prepared, they could end up resenting your new boyfriend or girlfriend and seeing their presence as your attempt to replace the other parent. Even if your kids accept your new partner, if you introduce them too soon and the relationship doesn’t work out, they could be hurt by losing the connection with your partner. By taking the time you and your children need, you can help make the transition to the next phase of your relationship easier for everyone.
Talking with Your Children and Family
Having discussions with your kids about the fact that you are seeing someone before actually introducing them to your partner can help make things go easier. That way, when you introduce the person you are seeing to your kids, they won’t feel like a stranger is coming into their lives without warning. Mentioning your partner to close family members can also help make it less awkward when the time comes for everyone to meet in person. Additionally, your kids may have questions about the person you have been dating that they don't want to ask you but may feel comfortable asking another family member. If you have talked about your new partner with other people who are close to them, your children may feel more at ease with the idea of this person being in their lives. Further, talking with trusted members of their family about your new partner may help your children feel more comfortable with the idea of you having someone new in your life. Your kids will also have a support system as they adjust to seeing you move forward into a new relationship.
There May Not be a “Perfect” Time
Every family is different, and a child’s age, temperament, and individual relationship with their parent can significantly impact how well the introduction of a new romantic partner may go after the divorce. For very young kids, their adjustment to seeing mom or dad with someone else may take some simple explanations and a relatively short amount of time. Older children who are struggling with the recent changes to their family may have a more challenging time acclimating to new people right away. Some teens may feel protective and may be fearful that an unwelcome boyfriend or girlfriend will hurt their parents after a difficult divorce.
Some kids will never be "ready" to see their parents with anyone. You will have to gauge where things are within your family and consider what you believe to be in the best interest of everyone involved. If your children are still reeling from the divorce and need significant emotional support, now is probably not a good time to add a new stressor. However, if things are relatively stable and have settled into a comfortable routine, it may be a good time to start talking about bringing your new partner around to meet everyone. Once you begin a dialogue, it will be easier to determine your next move.
Attorney and Mediator, Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law, has extensive experience helping clients understand their options during and after their Wisconsin divorce cases, and can help you connect with the resources you need.