Dating after divorce can be daunting — and even more so if you have children.
Perhaps you’ve been seeing someone, but you’ve kept your relationship under wraps. You know you want to introduce your new partner to your kids, but how can you know when the timing is right?
Or maybe you’ve already taken the plunge … and now you’re experiencing issues between your new SO and your kids.
So, when is the right time to introduce your new partner to your children? And how do you help your child adjust to your new relationship? Here’s what you should know.
When Should You Start Dating Again?
Even if you ended things on the best terms, divorce is still a traumatic experience for everyone involved. It’s normal for kids to have questions about what happened. They might even wonder if they were at fault.
As a parent, it’s a good idea to take a step back and give your kids (and yourself) time to fully recover from the divorce. Some parents try to jump right into a new relationship to compensate for their feelings of loss, but this behavior can actually prevent you and your family from adjusting to your new normal.
It’s a good idea to wait a while before you start seriously dating again. There’s no hard-and-fast rule for how long this period can take. Some recommend waiting a year (or more) to give your children a chance to settle into their new routine.
You’ll know when you’re ready to date again, and this transition can be easier with the help of a professional family therapist, open communication with your kids, and an honest look at your ability to trust someone again.
Helping Your Kids Adjust
Help your child prepare to meet your new partner. Don’t just turn up with your new SO unannounced; instead, take some time to talk to your child ahead of time, and have their first meeting happen in a comfortable space, like a family dinner at home.
It’s normal for kids to feel like they’re being neglected or forgotten because of the new person in your life, and they might even feel resentful. Show your kids that they are your top priority. Spend plenty of time with them one-on-one, and give them space to talk about their feelings in an honest, supportive environment.
Introduce your partner into your life gradually. This may be a bit challenging if you're smitten with your new SO and cannot wait to be a family. However, as your child has regular and positive interactions with them over time, they’ll naturally form a meaningful attachment.
If possible, talk to your ex before you introduce your child to your new partner. An understanding ex can significantly help with the adjustment. They could talk to your kids about any anxiety they may be having and help reassure your child that everything will be fine.
Bear in mind that some kids may adjust quicker than others, so don’t become discouraged if it takes longer. Sometimes, patience is all you need.
Paving The Way
Sometimes, your new partner may not be open to the idea of an instant family. It's therefore vital to lay your cards on the table early on and ask them about how they feel about children before your relationship progresses.
Does your partner make excuses not to be around when your kids are there? Would they rather be alone with you instead of spending time together as a family? Or do they seem jealous of the time or attention you give to your kids?
If so, you may be dealing with someone who hasn't accepted your kids — and that should be a major red flag.
If you still want to try to make the relationship work, the key is to make your partner feel like they are part of the family and that your child needs them. Suggest that they become actively involved in your child's life. For instance, ask them to accompany your child to swimming classes or baseball games every week. They'll feel a huge sense of pride when your child starts to excel, and this may help strengthen their bond.
Above all else, be patient and focus on what feels right for you and your child. After all, they’re depending on you to provide a stable, happy, and healthy home.
Not sure if your new partner will be good for your kids? Run their name through Instant Checkmate before you introduce them. If there's anything disturbing hiding in their past, you should be the first to know.