While you may have sworn off dating forever due to the stress of divorce, most people eventually seek out a new relationship. When kids are involved, there are some tips for introducing and adjusting to a new partner that can help you set the process up for success:

  • Go slow when introducing a new partner: The most important thing to remember is to go slow when choosing to introduce a new partner. Some people set a timeframe post-divorce during which new partners cannot be introduced. If this is not part of your parenting plan, follow the rule of serious and stable relationships are the only partners that kids need to meet. Feel free to date and have fun, but only introduce your kids to someone that will be with you over the long-term because meeting a series of partners is confusing to kids.

The actual introduction should take place in a neutral location at a fun, time-limited activity that your child will enjoy. Rather than bringing your partner to an all-day family bbq, choose an activity that allows for interaction as well as distraction, such as bowling or miniature golf (something everyone can enjoy).

Remember to talk to your ex-spouse ahead of time as well. Your co-parent deserves to hear this information from you, not your children.

  • Adjusting to a new partner is a process that takes time. Remember that it takes time for a relationship to develop. This requires you to manage your own expectations. Your relationship with your new partner did not develop overnight and your kid’s relationship with him/her will not either.

Let your child set the pace. Some kids are engaging and interested in getting to know new partners. Other kids are slower to warm up and need the process to reflect their style.

Your partner should maintain a warm, open stance to the children, but follow their lead on interactions. Do not put your new partner in the position of disciplining your children until a solid relationship is established as this role early on will undermine the connection.

  • Pay attention to your child’s reaction. As with any change, maintain a curious mindset to your child’s reaction. If your child is uncharacteristically hostile or indifferent to your new partner, ask them how it’s going. Be open to their response because it will guide you moving forward. If your daughter says, “I don’t like her because you are always with her.” This statement lets you understand that her fear is about losing her relationship with you so make sure you set aside alone time for the two of you. If your son says, “I don’t like it when he comes to my baseball games because he’s not my dad.” In this statement, your son may be communicating his loyalty to his father and not know how to develop this relationship. You can reassure him that no one will ever try to replace his father.

It can be daunting to try to introduce and nurture a relationship between your partner and your kids. Before investing the time and energy, make sure it’s a relationship that’s important to you. Once you do begin the process, move slowly and respect your children’s needs in the process.