When it comes to introducing kids to a new partner, the conversation should be handled with a bit more delicacy. “When casual dating partners are brought into children’s lives, there is the risk of them getting attached and then feeling abandoned,” Beurkens says, “as well as general confusion about the person’s role in their life.”
To avoid that confusion, she says parents need to determine whether the person they are dating is committed. According to Beurkens, once the new couple has discussed being serious, defined the relationship, and are on the same page about moving forward, it’s perfectly acceptable to talk to the kids about it. Then, everyone can start spending time together, she says.
Planning a fun activity that involves everyone is a casual way to introduce a new partner without any pressure—especially with younger kids. During the outing, allow your kids to form their own opinions about the person, Beurkens advises. “Kids are allowed to have their own thoughts and feelings about a parent dating someone new, and those need to be acknowledged,” she says, “but they are not allowed to control the situation.”
Because children may be afraid of a changing dynamic, their emotions can manipulate the situation. Rather than ending a relationship to appease your kids or, on the flip side, ignoring your kids’ emotional needs, pay attention to how they’re responding and try to communicate about it effectively.