Experts have many different takes on how to handle introducing children to your new “significant other.”
Some experts agree that if you’re widowed, divorced, or a single mom, you should not remarry or “hook-up” with anyone until your child is 18. But is that realistic?
Other experts feel that having a nuclear home, a mom, step-dad, and a stable two-parent household will provide great psycho-social benefits to the child. In either case, no matter how you feel, statistics show most of us do remarry after divorce, and remarry, (as was my case), with young children.
My daughter was 10 years old when I met my husband. It was a difficult decision to have them meet. But I knew when it came time, this was something I couldn’t avoid. But how do you know? And when is a good time?
The ambiguity stems from two primary lines of thought. First, if you introduce them too soon, your children might grow close to someone who won’t be in their lives too long. They have already experienced the loss of one parent, and to lose another parental figure is terribly sad and detrimental to their emotional and psychological well being.
Second, there’s the opinion that if your children don’t take to this person somehow, or this person doesn’t fare well around kids, then it’s best to know up front before you, him, or the kids get too attached.
Both lines of thinking have their pros and cons. However, there are some great guidelines that seem to work for many people. I’ve outlined them here for your reference. If you’ve met ALL these criteria and you’ve gotten to this point, it’s time to introduce the children.
1. Have you been out on a formal date with this person at least 12 times?
That should mean at least 36 to 48 hours of in person communication, walking on the beach, going to movies, having dinner, playing tennis, hiking and arguing too. If you’ve reached this threshold, you’ve probably discovered a lot about each other.
2. Have you two thoroughly discussed your children?
Has this person been consistent in asking you about your children’s well being, or casually remarked on how you manage with the kids, offered their perspective on parenting and discipline, shared information on his own kids and visitation or custody arrangements he/she currently has?
3. Do you two agree on a parenting style?
Have you discussed religion and TV and/or internet boundaries that you have set for your children? Do both of you agree? Do you have the same structure in place?
Agreeing on this could be the difference between an evening go smoothly being a total disaster.
4. Have you established what level of affection you’re willing to show in front of the kids?
Holding hands, a little kissing and hugging might be okay to display in front of the children. However, over sexualized kissing and touching, or spending the night together while the children are home is way too much for most children to handle.
Remember, you belong to them — your loyalty is to them first. They will see you that way until you’ve made a permanent commitment to another person, such as engagement and marriage.
If you want them to grow up respecting the committed values of married couples and live by those rules, you will have to live by them too.
5. Do you definitely feel this person has your back, for better or worse?
After you feel you are both in love, are you also sure they’ll be there if you need them to come change a tire? Will they be there if you have the flu and need some tea and aspirin?
Will they be okay if you have a career bump/challenge and need to stay home for a few months? Do you know how much each other makes and what each other’s bills and finances look like?
If you are well informed of your partner’s life, values and intentions, then you can consider introducing the kids.