The Kid Blender: How Should I Introduce My Kids to Someone New?
So, you’ve been dating someone for a little while and have decided that it might be time to introduce this new person to your children. Congratulations!
Unfortunately, The Brady Bunch started at Mike and Carol’s wedding so they didn’t offer us any guidelines on how they got to that place in their lives where all of the kids’ problems with each other could be happily solved in less than a half an hour. This is regrettable because when I’m faced with a family problem, I often ask myself, “Now, how would Carol handle this?” And without an episode about how they all met…I felt completely lost when I had to figure it out on my own
One of the most important things to keep in mind as a parent is that usually, no matter what the age, your kids are thinking about themselves. I don’t meant imply that they’re selfish…they’re just kids. When “new” happens, the first thing your kid is thinking is, “How will this affect me?” And as a parent, it is your job to answer that question.
Introducing a new significant other to your children can be tricky, mainly because everyone may have different expectations about how it’s going to go. Once again, a lot depends on the ages of the children. If they’re younger, many kids won’t think much about meeting a new “friend.” If they’re older, they may be a little wary of what change this might bring to their own lives.
Here are a few ideas that might start you down a path to a successful beginning:
- Introduce the significant other on his/her own: You may be so excited that your new S.O. has children as well and you just know in your heart that your kids and his are going to hit it off. But wait to introduce them all. Let your kids get to know the new person in your life by getting together a few times without all of the kids together. It will be less overwhelming for everyone.
- Go DO something: It will be less awkward and a little more fun for your kids when first meeting your new S.O. if you go out and do a fun activity together like bowling or miniature golf or a trip to the zoo. It will give everyone something to talk about and might lessen the unease your child has about a situation.
- Let his kids and yours meet on neutral ground: Time to get all of the kids together? You may have the best swing set in the entire world…but it’s still yours, it’s still your territory. It’s best to meet at a park for a picnic or, again, do some sort of activity to get everyone talking and having a good time.
- Establish the role this person will play: Your children may be concerned that your new S.O. is out to replace their father which might make them feel defensive and protective. Don’t assume that they know the role you have in mind for this new person in your life. It would be helpful to have a conversation along the lines of, “I know that he’s not your dad. He’s just another person in your life who likes/loves you and supports you.”
- Talk to your children: At this time in your life you can’t possibly communicate too much. Talk to your children constantly. Ask them how they feel about what’s going on and don’t assume that you know. Always remember to emphasize their importance in your life and that their needs will always come first to you, no matter what happens. And don’t just talk the talk. If your child is uncomfortable about something, it’s crucial that you deal with that issue first, before you move forward with your own relationship (which can sometimes be hard to do).
It’s easy for many of us to say the words “the most important thing in my life is my child” but never is it more important to live those words than when you’re dating as a single parent. How and when you introduce your children to someone new really has nothing to do with you…and everything to do with them and making them feel secure about the situation.
Kind of makes you have a little more respect for Mike and Carol, doesn’t it?
Catherine Tidd is a writer, widow and mother of three. She is the founder of www.theWiddahood.com, a free peer support website dedicated to anyone who has lost a significant other and has a Facebook peer support page under the name Widow Chick. Along with being published in several books on grief and renewal, Catherine is also a humorous motivational speaker who focuses on “finding joy in a life you weren’t expecting.” She also writes a blog on parenting and NASCARing called NASCAR Brady Bunch.