Dating is incredibly hard. Add a child or children and a baby daddy or momma and you’re looking at incredibly hard times four (or five or six…).
Your most important first step is giving a new relationship time to grow without the pressure of growing as a family (yet). You want to build a foundation together and make sure you know enough about them that they’re going to be around for the long haul.
Advice on when to do this ranges widely:
- Wait at least six months.
- Don’t focus on the quantity of the relationship. Focus on the quality. Every relationship moves at its own pace.
- Do it early (and casually) since your child(ren)’s opinion might influence if you want to continue the relationship or not.
- Wait until you’ve gotten engaged.
- Do it once you have seriously talked about a future together.
You get to decide for yourself when it’s best to bring your honey around your kids. Evaluate that based on your relationship, your kids’ ages, how long you’ve been divorced/broken up with from their other parent, and where your kids are emotionally with that.
Once you’ve decided on what timeline you’d like to follow and are finally ready to introduce your partner to your children, follow these rules to help you make it a success:
- Take it slow.
When my boyfriend first met my kids, it was unplanned.
I arrived home from Sunday morning church with my twin toddlers only to discover that my house had been broken into, and I’d likely interrupted the thief in the middle of it as very little had been taken.
I was shaken, and my house was in disarray. A window had been broken, and several of my cabinets had been opened and everything inside dumped on the floor.
I wanted someone there to help me feel safe, and I needed help dealing with my children while I tried to clean up.
So I called my partner, and he came right over.
He wonderfully handled a lot of the cleaning up and talking to the cops while I kept my children out of the way and then put them down for a nap.
It was too “early” in our relationship to introduce him to them officially since we hadn’t been together six months yet (which was the marker I’d decided to follow originally), but we were serious and had already talked about a future together. Sometimes, too, things just happen.
For that reason, my partner was just “mommy’s friend.” We weren’t physically affectionate with each other, and while he did play with them, it was on their terms.
Eventually, we moved to my children seeing my partner for longer stretches, and being affectionate with each other around them. Because we didn’t force anything, my kids now love to see my partner and ask about him when he isn’t there.
2. Reassure as necessary.
My children are young, but I’ve still dealt with my daughter being jealous. Like when she told my partner emphatically, “No, my mommy,” and pulled me away from him.
I’ve talked with her about how I am only her mommy and not my partner’s, and today that is a running joke between my partner and her:
“My mommy!” my partner says while grasping my arm.
“No, my mommy!” my daughter says, giggling and grabbing at me.
Depending on the age of your children, they may need to be reassured that you are not choosing your partner over them. They may need special time with you as they adjust.
Likewise, your children may need to be reassured that your partner isn’t going to replace their other parent. Letting them know that their relationship with their mommy or daddy is important and won’t change could be helpful in assuaging their worries.
3. Set Rules for Your New Family.
My children have a father who is very active in their lives, so I do not in anyway expect my partner to step in as my children’s father.
But my partner and I still had to and continue to have to discuss how we will handle expectations, discipline, etc. with my children. For example, I handle the discipline as my partner is mommy’s fun boyfriend, not their father.
My partner and I worked together on setting those rules, and they will continue to change as my children grow.
Dating with children is a different frontier if the last time you did it you were unencumbered. It’s important you give yourself time to focus on your new relationship and if it’s what you really want before you bring your kids into it.
If your new partner is great and you take things slowly, your children will see how great he is too!