Introducing a new significant other to your kids is one of the hardest things a single parent has to do. It’s no easy task to ask your kids to accept a complete stranger into their lives, but there are some things you can do to get the relationships started off on the right foot.
Much of the challenge depends on the ages of your kids. And you may have several children of different ages and stages, making things a little trickier. Younger children tend to be more accepting of strangers and don’t associate the same thoughts and anxieties that older children can with the idea of their father’s new girlfriend. High-school and young-adult-aged children may be able to look past some of the issues that younger children have, but this age group may also build up some of the highest levels of resentment.
These tips can give you some guidelines for breaking the ice between your kids and your new girlfriend. But you understand your kids’ individual personalities, so be sure to follow your heart and your gut as well.
Don’t introduce your kids to every woman you date. Save these introductions for a woman that you think will be around for awhile. It’s less stressful on your kids and they’re more likely to take to a girlfriend that you think is really someone special rather than a date that you’re still getting to know yourself.
Prep your kids in advance. If you’ve been dating your new girlfriend for a while, maybe you’ve already been talking about her at home in front of your kids. Before they meet, let your kids get to know her a little bit through you, by telling them any information about her that you think they’ll find engaging, especially any common interests they may have. It will make them feel less like strangers when they meet for the first time.
Prep your girlfriend too. Not every woman has spent time around kids, and your kids are unique, with their own personalities, likes, and dislikes. Even if you’ve already told your girlfriend all about your kids, it can still help to give her a few pointers, especially when it comes to touchy subjects. It never hurts to suggest that she not bring up certain topics, or to tell her which subjects each of your kids will want to talk about.
Be honest with your kids. It’s okay to tell your kids that you really like your new girlfriend. Tell them how important it is to you that they give her a chance. Let them know you think they’ll really like her. Give them a reason to like her by telling them why you like her so much. Their reactions to your honesty may surprise you.
Introduce them for the first time on neutral territory. It can be awkward to have your kids meet your girlfriend on their turf, and it may be even worse to meet on hers. Plan an outing in a public place, where everyone is more likely to be on their best behavior. Depending on how things go, you may want to have the kids get to know her in several neutral places before taking things to the next level by bringing her home, which can feel a lot more like bringing her into the family.
Plan an event or outing that will be fun for your kids. This may seem like a no-brainer, but under pressure people can forget that an amusement park is a lot more fun than a coffee shop. Doing something fun or exciting like miniature golf or riding roller coasters can really help people get along. You may even want to plan to treat your kids to do something they’ve been asking to do for some time.
Help create a non-awkward environment. Going to a place like the zoo or a science museum can help provide topics for conversation when people are getting to know each other and they’re not sure what to talk about. If your kids are particularly shy or hesitant about interacting with a new girlfriend, going to a place like a movie or an arcade where people aren’t expected to talk much may be more fun and less threatening.
Find common interests. You know your girlfriend and you know your kids. Try to find some of the interests that they have in common and steer the conversation or activity in the right direction. Finding things in common can really help people connect and feel like they understand each other.
Play board games at home. When you do decide to bring your girlfriend home to spend time with your family, board games can really help break the ice and prevent awkward silences and situations. Choose fun, action-oriented games rather than slower-moving games to keep things exciting, and don’t play anything too competitive. Breaking up into teams for a game can give your kids and girlfriend a chance to work together as comrades. Ordering pizza, making popcorn, or offering some fun treat can help create a positive environment too.