Meet My Kids

Heads up, single parents: Here’s some practical, thoughtful advice on the best time and ways to introduce your date to your kids.

By Karen Salmansohn

ating a divorced person can be like getting one fabulous love (the paramour) and then getting bonus fabulous love for free: the kid(s) the paramour brings along.

But before you introduce your children to your new girlfriend or boyfriend, it’s
Reassure your child that you will be there in all the usual ways.
important to put in the right amount of thoughtful preparation. With this in mind, and with some input from psychoanalyst Morrie Schectman, here are some helpful tips to make sure you plan ahead and that you do so wisely and lovingly.

1. Wait until you’re exclusive and committed before you make the introduction. You don’t want to be constantly bombarding your child with a string of strumpets. (I love the word strumpet. But I know it really only applies to women, so feel free to substitute whatever word works for you to include men in this equation.)

2. Tell your child you want him or her to meet someone you feel is very special, but don’t tell your child how to feel about this new person. Never say things like “You’re going to love this person, too.” Talk about pressure!

3. Give your child some notice. Let him or her know about a week before the actual event—so there is plenty of time to process. Don’t just spring the new person on the kid.

4. Recognize that, depending on his or her age, your child might view your paramour as a threat to personal time with you—as being someone who is breaking and entering into your own Special Little Club. Even if your c
Check in separately with your child and your sweetie to see how everyone is feeling.
hild doesn’t say it aloud, know that he or she may wonder things like: “Will Mommy’s new boyfriend take away all of my her attention—will she be so busy with that guy that she won’t have time for me?” Take the lead. Reassure your child that you will be there in all the usual ways.

5. It’s even more important to start a conversation if your child seems angry or worried before the get-together. Don’t ignore this behavior. Schectman writes about the “big five” emotions: glad, sad, mad, hurt and afraid. Ask your child how many of those he or she feels — and why. Get a dialogue going so you can understand exactly how your child is processing this new experience and offer your support.

6. Keep the first meet-up with everyone short—just an hour or two is fine.

7. Don’t rely on the sheer force of conversation for the first meet-up. Plan a fun activity to do together.

8. You and your paramour should both go easy on the Public Displays of Adorableness. Avoid your usual kissing, touching and general lovey-dovey ways.

9. After this initial meeting, check in separately with your child and your sweetie to see how everyone is feeling. Proceed slowly to the next meet-up.

10. If your child is particularly mad, sad, hurt or afraid, explain how adults need time with other adults, just as children need time with other children. If you want, say something like: “You are the most important person in my life, but like you, I sometimes need to spend time with people my own age.” If your child is old enough to express concern about your dating again, you can open the conversation up further with a statement like, “I know some kids don’t like it when their parents date. How do you feel about this?” With an open and honest attitude, patience and flexibility, you, your child and your new love should be able to find your way.

Karen Salmansohn is the best-selling author of How To Be Happy, Dammit!, which inspired the famed Sirius Radio Show at Lime 114 and blog at
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