By: Miles Hector

When it’s time to introduce your new partner to your child, it’s normal to feel anxious, excited or even nervous. Dating can be tricky in the best circumstances, but it can be straight-up challenging when you’ve got kids to think of and you’re a newly single parent. 

If you are worried, nervous or just unsure of how to approach this event, there are steps you can take to prepare. It’s impossible to guarantee a positive first impression, but follow the steps below and you’ll be as prepared as possible.

Inform Your Co-Parent

The first step in introducing a new partner to your kids is to tell your co-parent. It’s more than just a courtesy — they have a right to know about anything that can significantly impact their child, and you introducing a new partner definitely qualifies. 

The last thing you want is your child beating you to the punch and telling your ex before you get the chance. That’s a recipe for hurt feelings and broken lines of communication. Guaranteeing that they hear important news from you first shows your co-parent that you maintain respect for them, regardless of past issues. 

Try to stay neutral when having this conversation. It can be tricky to gauge a reaction, so be ready for anything. It’s possible that your ex may want to meet your new partner in person before you introduce them to your kids. If you think that’s inappropriate, don’t be afraid to respectfully decline, or work towards a compromise. However, moving forward without their support may be necessary if you are serious about your new relationship. 

Consider that new relationships for either of you mean additional parties being involved in your co-parenting dynamic. And while it’s not vital that everyone becomes friends, working towards respectful communication and positive interactions will be beneficial for all. 

Getting Ready to Introduce Them

It’s not a good idea to drop a bombshell on your co-partner, and the same goes for your child. Kids can have a lot of questions so break the news to them slowly. It can be helpful to refer to your new partner as a friend who you care deeply about. With youngsters, talking to them about interests you and your “friend” share and how much you enjoy spending time with them can make them excited to meet your partner. This can be a complicated time for your children, so let them know that nothing will change how much you love them. 

For older children, hearing this news may cause them to lose hope in their parents reuniting, creating some complicated feelings. Depending on their age, it may be easier to just be transparent right out the gate, but be sure to be mindful of their feelings. Children of all ages need time to adjust and grieve after their parents separate. The additional stress of a parent dating can make it hard to process feelings and emotions. Go slow. 

The First Meeting 

The only thing left to do after you’ve told your co-parent and kids about your new partner is to pick a date to meet! It’s best to keep this first introduction casual. Tensions and anxieties will likely be high so don’t do anything that will add stress to the situation. Here are some ideas:

  • Movies (pick something everyone is likely to enjoy)
  • Go bowling 
  • Play laser tag 
  • Take a trip to the zoo
  • Visit the park and play

Choosing a fun, casual activity will help minimize awkward silences and put everyone at ease. You’d likely spend a lot of time searching for something to say if you go out for dinner. Save dinner for date nights between you and your partner. 

Remember to keep things casual by introducing your new partner as a friend. If you slip up and say “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”, it’s not the biggest mistake you can make so don’t sweat it. But it’s a good idea to keep PDA to a minimum for everyone’s comfort. 

When the initial meet-up is all said and done, check in with your partner and kids. Demonstrating that you value everyone’s feelings and opinions will make future meetings easier. 

Next Steps

All relationships develop over time. The more time and effort you put into them, the more you get out of them. If the initial meeting was successful, great! If not, try not to beat yourself up. Take some time to think about how you can make each interaction better than the last.

There’s no timeline as to when (or even if) your kids and new partner will be excited about having each other in their lives. But it’s important to keep trying. Your relationships will improve if you do. Here are some tips on how to make that happen: 

Continue to say “friend” for a while  

Kids need consistency and routines in their lives. Do your best to ensure this new partner will be in their lives consistently before using pet names or terms for partners. 

Schedule personal time 

You and your partner will still need to spend time with each other when the kids aren’t around. Continue to bring them around your kids often but make sure you block out some time for yourselves. 

Kids’ Meetup 

If your partner has kids too, have you thought about when they’ll meet yours? Plan a playdate for young kids or activities for older ones to break the ice. Knowing a peer that’s going through the same thing can make the transition easier for your child.    

Moving in 

It may be a while before this happens, but it may if your relationship continues to progress. Give your kids a sense of agency by letting them be involved in the process, and let them know that their thoughts matter too. Discuss with your co-parent so they are not caught off guard. Remember to ask yourself if your new partner is the right fit for your family before making any big decisions. 

Now that you’ve got a plan and are feeling more confident, go ahead and plan something! Remember that with more effort into your relationship, the more likely it is to be great. We wish you the best of luck!