Everyone has an opinion when you break up and there’s a kid involved. But the opinions really come out of the woodwork when you start dating someone new. When is the appropriate time to introduce your little one to the new guy in your life?
Before you stress out, take all the opinions flying at you and try this question on for size: does anyone back the opinion up with a real reason? If someone is lecturing you on the “best” or “appropriate timeline,” you can bet they’re full of it. Take a deep breath and decide for yourself what time is right.
There are loads of things to consider, and of course it depends on the age of your child and the circumstances of Dad not being around anymore. But in most cases, it’s a good idea to take the following steps:
- This one is really more of a pre-step. Before you start plotting out a family dinner or a special outing, ask yourself what the worst possible outcome is, and what could really be behind it. Is it about missing Dad? Not liking the new guy? Could the timing just start things off on a bad foot?
- Once you have identified what worst-case possibility to mitigate, reassess how your kid feels about your past relationship, and the fact that it ended. Was it divorce? Does your child still have a relationship with his or her dad? Did something really bad happen where Dad died?
Based on where your child is on the past relationship—and whether they have grown accustomed to you being single, or at least living without Dad in the house—you might have to wait a while before bringing home the new guy.
- Does your kid know you’re dating? This question is SO basic, but too many forget to ask it! If you haven’t even talked about “mom’s new friend” yet, introducing a partner could be a slap in the face.
Start my making sure your child knows that you want to date, and plan to date. Make sure he or she knows that adults regularly like having a “special someone.” Work up to talking about your guy, and only then think about an introduction.
- Do a quick sanity-check on how everything is going at home. Are there big problems? You don’t want your new boyfriend to be associated with times of major hardships, especially the ones that directly affect your child.
Not all of us can wait around to introduce the new beau only once everything is hunky-dory. If there are some bigger things going on at home, at least wait for a moment of reprieve.
- Do your boyfriend and your kid have anything in common? Anything at all? Favor whatever your child likes, and see if you can frame the first encounter in the context of that interest.
Even better, is there an activity that you can all do together that your child would enjoy? Start off with your guy showing that he can support your child in something he or she loves. This type of support is a great way to warm up to the new family dynamic.
- Last, and most importantly, if Dad is still around and spends time with your kid, be sure you’ve taken care of damage-control from that end. If your ex can’t be civil and refrain from sharing negative opinions about your love life, you might be in for an uphill battle.
Whatever you do, don’t skip this step and expect your child to be quiet about the new guy with Dad. If your ex doesn’t know about it, and your kid says something off the cuff, the immediate reaction could be something that leaves a bad impression on your child.
When it comes to laying out the timeline for when to introduce your child to your new boyfriend, there are a lot of considerations, and more opinions than anything. But for all the judgements from friends or family, some of the people in your life could prove to be a valuable resource when it comes time to make the introduction.
It’s extraordinary how true this can be, but sometimes a child really needs to hear something from an adult who’s not their parent. It is never a good idea to let your kid hear about your new boyfriend from someone else, but other family members might be able to introduce the idea that moms and dads look for new partners once their relationship ends.
Once you get down to brass tax, be sure that your worst-that-could-happen scenario doesn’t have anything to do with “what other people will say.” If people are telling you to hold off, but you think the timing is good, you’re the mom. Take joy in knowing your child well enough to recognize the right moment and introduce your someone special.