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The dos and don'ts of introducing your kids to your new love

Many divorced parents won't introduce their children to anyone they're dating until the relationship becomes very serious and perhaps even until they begin talking about marriage.

If this person is going to be a big part of your life, you want your children to like him or her, and vice versa. That can place a lot of pressure on your kids' first encounters with the new love of your life.

It's important to realize that all kids react differently when a divorced parent gets involved with someone. Some enjoy seeing their parent happy and like having a new person in their lives. Others feel threatened and jealous of an interloper who is now sharing their parent's time and affection.

Kids need to adjust at their own pace and not be rushed or pressured to accept this new person. There are some important dos and don'ts to keep in mind when your significant other is first getting to know your kids.

Introduce them in small doses. Have dinner at a family-friendly restaurant, plan an evening of video games or go someplace the kids enjoy for the afternoon. When your kids start asking to see this person, you can increase the time that you all spend together.

Be careful about showing too much affection toward one another in front of the kids. Also, caution your new partner not to attempt to parent (and certainly not to punish) your kids. Children can resent having a someone new acting as an authority figure.

New boyfriends and girlfriends also have to be careful about not talking down to kids. This can be challenging for people who don't have children. Kids generally don't want to be treated as younger than they are or called names that may be meant affectionately, but can be interpreted as being too familiar or condescending.

It's important that your partner not question your parenting in front of your kids. He or she may try to gain your kids' affection by being lenient with them. However, your kids need to know that you're in charge.

When divorced spouses start introducing new significant others into their kids' lives, it can spark jealousy and conflict from their exes. If you have any issues that you believe warrant a change in your parenting plan, talk with your Tennessee family law attorney.

Source: Family Education, "Introducing your New Significant Other to your Children," accessed April 26, 2018

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