Kids, Meet My New Sweetie

Nervous about introducing your kids to your new love? Here’s how to make the moment as drama-free as possible.

By Chelsea Kaplan

hen you’re a single parent who’s found love again, it can feel as though you’ve been given a new lease on life. The thought of introducing your new main squeeze to your kids, however, can be stressful enough to burst your bubble. However, you can do so in a way that’ll make everyone comfortable, provided that you follow a few important guidelines. Let these helpful tips show you how to stage a smooth introduction.

Tip #1: Take the seriousness of your relationship into consideration
“I know I need to introduce my daughter to my new boyfriend, but I am unsure of
Meeting outside your home may feel more casual, less tense.
when that time should be. I definitely see a future with him, but if things don’t work out as I think they will, I don’t want her to get attached to him and have to suffer through another loss,” says Kristine Canfield of Sewickley, PA. The concern that parents will disappoint their kids if their relationship does not endure is very common, says Michael D. Zentman, Ph.D., a family therapist and Director of the Adelphi University Postgraduate Program in Marriage and Couples Therapy in Garden City, NY, who has over 34 years of experience working with the remarried family. Because parents worry that after their child meets their new partner the child will expect this person to be a permanent part of their lives, parents often avoid scheduling the introduction—or at least postpone it, he says.

Keep a few things in mind when deciding if you’re willing to make your mate a part of your child’s life. First, consider the seriousness of your new relationship and whether the feelings between you and your partner are mutual. If it’s very serious and you’re both on the same page, it may be the right time. Second, consider how, based on the child’s age, he or she will interpret the introduction. Dr. Zentman says that very young children don’t necessarily have the same expectations as older children concerning the meaning of a relationship, while teenagers understand the dating process and don’t expect all dating partners to become permanent ones. Therefore, kids in these age groups may be able to take an introduction to a newer partner in stride. Pre-adolescent children, however, feel the impact of too many lost beginnings most of all, so if you’re going to make your preteen child a part of the relationship, make sure that your new love is a keeper.

Tip #2: Select the site of the introduction based on what your kids know — or like — best
“I’m ready to have my kids meet my new girlfriend, but I have no idea where to stage the introduction. Should I do it at my house, at hers, at a restaurant, at the park? I just want it to go well!” says John Fleischman of Wellfleet, MA. Since children tend to feel safest and most
Resist the urge to over-analysis the success of the meeting.
comfortable within their own homes, that might be the best place for an introduction, advises Dr. Zentman. “However, parents can also ask the kids where they would like to be when they meet the dating partner,” he says. “Kids tend to know what’s best for them when it comes to emotional matters. Meeting in a park may feel more casual and less tense; see what the kids say.”

Tip #3: Trust your instincts and speak the truth
“I think I know how to make the introduction—what to say, at least, but I’m not sure if it’s the ‘right’ thing to say,” wonders Michelle Kordabonchuck of New York, NY. When it comes to your “script,” go with your instincts. “Parents usually don’t need a script when it comes to things like this; they know their kids and will know the best approach to take,” Dr. Zentman says. Generally speaking, he advises keeping things simple and honest and avoiding surprising your children with the introduction; let them know what you are planning and ask them how they feel about it. “Parents might even ask what the child would like to know about the person ahead of time,” he suggests, noting that as most anxiety is fueled by the unknown, a little advance information might help. After the introduction, when you’re alone with your child, find out how he or she felt about the process and about your new dating partner.

Tip #4: Avoid setting lofty expectations for the first meeting
“I just want my kids to love my boyfriend as much as I do! How can I make sure they warm up to him from the get-go?” asks Lauren Charlton of Providence, RI. All children, from the youngest to oldest, will feel anxious about this meeting, Dr. Zentman says. “The youngest might express this through shyness or even avoidance, teenagers might demonstrate this through indifference, a display of boredom or avoidance, while little ones may hide behind the parent or retreat to their rooms.” Since all behavior is communication, even if you don’t like it, he advises accepting what your child expresses. “Dating partners cannot be pushed onto children,” Dr. Zentman explains. “No one can be forced to accept someone until they are ready.” Resist the urge to evaluate the success of the introduction based on how pleasant or happy everyone was to meet. “Success for the initial meeting might be based merely on survival—it happened and everyone survived!” Dr. Zentman says. If the relationship endures, your kids and your new mate will get to know each other over time.

Tip #5: Encourage your partner to be him or herself—and nothing more
“I hope my kids love my boyfriend as much as I do, but I am worried that he may act really nervous or too excited because he knows how much is at stake,” worries Virginia Leltz, 38, of St. Paul, MN. Undoubtedly, your date will want to make a great impression on your children, so he or she may feel pressure to be extra nice and engaging. While these efforts come from a good place, your children may not be ready for them, says Dr. Zentman. “My best advice for the dating partner is to not try too hard,” he says. “You don’t have to prove anything to the child’s parent, and you don’t have to prove that you love children or that you will be loved by these children.” Therefore, the urge to pack too much into this meeting — too much meaning, too much involvement, etc. — is best avoided. “A successful introduction is just that: a meeting of people who have known about each other but never met before,” says Dr. Zentman. “Now they have!”

Chelsea Kaplan is deputy editor at Her blog, “I’m Somebody’s Mother?” can be found at
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