You've met a new date, things have been going well, and it comes to the time when you need to think about introducing them to your children. It's a big one, right!
There are so many decisions to make, and it's essential to think it through because this is taking a new partnership to a whole new level.
Let's take a look at introducing your children to a new partner, and how to make sure it all goes smoothly.
When things feel awkward, we can easily put them off - but this is something too important to avoid, and it matters. Your kids and your partner are both huge parts of your life, and if you want a new person to be included and involved in your life, you must introduce them.
Likewise, your kids want to understand what is happening, and if they've had a few more sleepovers at Grannies than usual, they're going to know something is different.
Excluding them from your relationship can cause no end of confusion and worry, so introducing everybody is the best solution so you can all move forward and get to know each other a little better.
I'm not going to tell you there is a 'golden' time - because the right time depends on you, your partner, your situation, and your kids! Everybody is different, and so too are their relationships, so it isn't a one size fits all scenario.
Here are the questions to ask if you think it's the right time:
Your answers to these questions will help you determine if the time is right. The key is to ensure that you introduce your children and your new partner when YOU feel comfortable doing so - force it, and the situation could end up being premature, or leave it too long, and somebody may have hurt feelings.
Honesty is the best policy; so if you're dating somebody you think you could get serious about, gently introduce the topic with your kids, so they're not going to be startled when they do meet this person.
The other consideration is continuity - so if your kids know that nothing fundamental is going to change, and you aren't going anywhere, they'll remain settled and happy, in a good place emotionally to welcome somebody new to the family.
Children are young, but not silly, so if you've started dating they probably already know (unless they're too little to notice!).
You don't have to introduce a date straight away, and most single parents prefer to wait a few months until they feel like the relationship is stable.
However, there's no reason not to have the conversation, so they understand where you're going when you're not with them, and why you might be a little happier these days!
Parents choose all sorts of ways to broach this:
They might refer to their date as a 'new friend' if their kids are a little too small to understand romantic relationships.
If the children's other parent is involved in their lives, it's usually best to speak to them in advance, so they aren't blindsided by chatter from the children about your new partner!
Tell your kids where you're going, and when you will get back, so they don't feel like your new relationship is taking you away from them.
Again, there's no right or wrong, and you know your kids better than anybody. Talking to them and allowing them to ask all the questions they might have in a safe space will make sure they are comfortable with the situation before the first big meeting happens!
It feels like a momentous occasion; but really, it's simply introducing people who are important to you, and doesn't have to be a high-pressure situation.
My advice is to keep is casual, so everybody is comfortable. Try meeting up when you're already out somewhere, so the introduction doesn't take place in your home.
Perhaps you could take a bike ride in the park, and meet up while you're out and about! The key is to make sure it's nothing potentially contentious. A lot of people will choose a trip to the movies, but my advice is that if you choose a film somebody doesn't like, it's a long time to be sitting in the dark next to a stranger, and without any decent chance of a conversation!
You want something familiar but fun. The best choice is nothing extravagant or unusual, and certainly not somewhere where you can expect big queues or loud noise, which makes it pretty hard to introduce yourselves.
If you want to help your partner out, give them a quick briefing beforehand. They don't need to have a script, of course, but just a few ideas about the things your kids like.
Having a conversation starter in your back pocket makes a first meeting so much easier for a new date. Remember they're going to be feeling nervous about the meeting too and will be hoping desperately to make a good first impression so that your kids like them!
I say this because it's relatively common for a new partner to try and ingratiate themselves with your kids by bringing gifts for them.
Presents are great, don't get me wrong, but this is a person you want to be a meaningful part of your kid's lives, not somebody who turns up every now and then bearing gifts like those distant relatives you only see at Christmas!
Your kids don't have to see your new date as a parent, but they do have to feel comfortable around them. Good conversation, sharing a fun time, and having lots to talk about are all you need to pave the way for a positive and happy relationship.