When people end their romantic relationship with their children’s other parent, they often feel as though they will never want to have a romantic relationship ever again. The reality is, after the emotional pain and adjustment period is over, most people do decide to date. Some choose to date seriously and look for another committed relationship, while other unmarried parents decide to date casually. No matter what your intentions are in your dating life, it is important that you consider if and when you will introduce your new significant other to your children. Here are some strategies that might help you decide if, when, and how to introduce your kids to a new love interest:
- Set Your Intention. If you choose to date casually, it may be unnecessary to introduce your kids to the people you date. If you do choose to introduce your kids to the person you are casually dating, it might make more sense to introduce them to your kids as a friend, and then maintain that friendly demeanor while in your children’s presence. If however, you intend and hope to find another serious relationship, it is probably in you, your children, and your new significant other’s best interest to introduce everyone to each other (at the proper time) and make sure that you all mesh well together.
- Set Your Limits Early. We all know how swept away people can be in a new relationship. That’s why we often advise clients to determine when they might introduce a new significant other prior to being swept away. Making a time limit (like not introducing the kids until you have been dating someone for six months) will provide at least some protection from your own decision making being influenced by the excitement of a new dating relationship.
- Consider Telling the Other Parent. It might sound surprising, but many single parents have had good experiences telling the children’s other parent about a new love interest and the intention to introduce that person to the kids prior to introducing the kids. In some circumstances this is not advisable and in some instances it is against a court order (see below), but in many instances it can get an otherwise uncomfortable situation out in the open where it can be discussed and dealt with, and it won’t be necessary to hide the boyfriend when your former spouse comes to pick up the kids, or not allow the new girlfriend to come to your kids’ soccer games for fear of an awkward interaction with your ex.
- Review Your Parenting Plan. Prior to introducing your kids to a new romantic interest, you should first review your parenting plan and all other court orders. Violating a court order (including a parenting plan) can have serious consequences.
- Consult With a Child’s Counselor. If your child has had a hard time adjusting to a two-home family or if you otherwise want guidance on this process, it may be a good idea to consult with your children’s counselor (or just any child counselor with the proper credentials). A counselor can guide you on when and how to introduce your new girlfriend or boyfriend to your kids in a way that will not further exacerbate any anxiety or other issues they may have regarding your separation from their other parent.
- Consider Your Children’s Safety. Your kids’ safety has to come first. Prior to introducing your kids to any romantic love interest think about benefits of doing so compared to any risks. If you have any doubt about your new boyfriend or girlfriend’s background, emotional health, criminal history, drug use, etc., do not introduce that person to your kids.
We hope that you find these ideas helpful. If you have legal questions, it is always best to speak with a family law attorney where you live. If you need a Seattle area family law attorney, please contact us.