Meeting a new partner is an important milestone, bringing with it a string of emotions ranging from excitement to fear. Introducing a new partner to kids can be a very challenging experience for parents and adds on to the already existing thoughts and emotions.
For some adults, a new relationship may be seen as a permanent one, and this runs the risk of introducing a new partner to children earlier than need be. It is important to keep in mind what the children would want and what is right for them at the given time.
Due to the increased use of technology and dating apps, dating has taken on a different form than in past times; with single/separated parents experiencing a much higher number of romantic relationships than ever before seen.
When parents enter a new relationship, they may have a different view of what they would like their partner’s role to be. It is important to discuss expectations with the new partner before introducing them to children, as they may not want to take on a parenting role, while the parent might in fact want them to.
While it is easy to assume that the best advice is to wait until the relationship is serious, a study conducted by Dr.Kristen Hadfield has shown that many kids did not like being lied to when they found out their parent had been seeing a new partner for some months and some ended up resenting the new partner. This can be even more frustrating for older children/teens who feel they have a close connection to their parent. On the other hand, other children in the study resented parents’ partners when they knew they were going out on dates with them, feeling like they were taking time away from them and their parents. So yes, take a deep breath, as the situation is not an easy one!
Dr.Hadfield suggests that considering all the risks, it would be better to wait until the relationship has gained some stability before introducing the new partner. Modern day dating can bring with it a lot of instability, which children should not be exposed to. While the children may be curious to know each detail of the parent’s life, it is the role of the parent to decide how best to protect their child and what information is best kept private.
If the relationship has reached a point where you are introducing them to your kids, it would be best to meet up in a neutral place such as a café. It is also beneficial to ensure that the child has time to spend alone with the parent before and after the initial meet up. This is especially important if you do not spend a lot of time with your children due to shared custody or other reasons; as the children would be eager to have the parent’s undivided attention. Further to this, there may be a discussion with the partner on which events they should attend and how involved in the routine they will be. A child may be fine with meeting the partner outdoors but, might not want the new partner to be there for breakfast or their birthday at first.
Finally, do not expect children to keep secrets for you. This means, that if you have entered a new relationship and introduced the partner to your child; do not expect them to lie to your ex-partner or any other family members. On that note, it may be important to reflect on who needs to be informed before you decide to include your children.
While it may seem like a bit of a rollercoaster, ensuring that you take the necessary precautions for your family will result in a deeper feeling of satisfaction and a healthier, stronger relationship with your children and your partner.
Michaela Pace is a Psychology graduate from the University of Malta. She has worked with children and adolescents within the social sector and currently works as a Triage Officer and Volunteer Manager within Willingness Team, while pursuing a Masters in Gestalt Psychotherapy.
Ungar, M. (2021). When Parents Date Someone New, What’s Best for the Kids?. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/nurturing-resilience/201508/when-parents-date-someone-new-whats-best-the-kids