I have been asked many times before my thoughts on when it’s the right time to tell your children that you’re in a new relationship. The thing to bear in mind is that there are no hard and fast rules that should be followed, it very much depends on a number of factors, so these are only guidelines.
Most people agree that it’s wise not to announce a relationship too early to your children as there are many pitfalls along the way and you need to know that the relationship has a reasonably solid base and stands a chance of lasting. There’s no benefit to keeping your children too informed and them then being aware of a number of new people in your life over time that simply disappear again.
Also be wary of assuming that the older a child gets the more understanding they will be about their mum or dad spending time with a new partner. Yes, in theory they should be able to comprehend the reasons behind your new relationship, but be mindful that just because a child is nearing adulthood their emotional development has kept pace. If you don’t approach the unveiling of your new friend in the right way for your children then you may taint their view of your partner permanently, even if it is without basis.
To make everything go smoothly there are steps you can take that should keep you on the right line. Make sure that you don’t make the first meeting between your children and your new partner a long-winded affair, keep it short and sweet. Perhaps do something fun that is active and gives them an opportunity to focus elsewhere if they feel the need – an activity park, ten-pin bowling or the like.
When you’re on the first meeting, and even subsequent ones initially, make sure that you don’t have any public displays of affection. Build up over time to hugs, kisses on the cheek and then beyond. Your children shouldn’t be subject to affection from your prospective partner for some time and definitely don’t label them as your girlfriend, boyfriend or partner until some time has passed. Your “friend” will do just fine and will avoid the children feeling you’ve made a commitment without considering or consulting them. Of course, should your children want to show affection to your partner, such as a hug, then that is on their terms and is perfectly acceptable.
The key is to not overdo things, take it slowly and don’t spend all your time devoted to your new partner and leaving your children wondering where all their special time went with their mum or dad. It’s a delicate balancing act and a steep learning curve, but one you’re more than able to take with a little common sense and consideration towards your children. One thing to be wary of though is to not be spurred on by them if they take an instant liking to your partner – make sure you keep a clear head and judge any prospective relationship on your feelings too – not just if they fit in with your family life well.
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts and experiences on this issue….