9 Rules for Introducing Your New Love to Your Kids
Fifty percent of first marriages end in divorce. The average length of a first marriage is eight years, with the average age of those who are getting married landing at 30, prime child bearing years. One would think that second or third marriages would show better stats, as men and women would learn from their mistakes. But that’s NOT true. Sixty percent of second marriages and 73 percent of third marriages will end in divorce. And so a challenge for many couples embarking on getting remarried is how to successfully meld each of their children into the mix.
First and foremost, my suggestion is to take your time. If you’re done having kids, there is no need to be on a timetable in your developing relationship. Remember that piece of paper didn’t make things stick in round one. The reality is that kids are the glue in most marriages; not having children together makes an exit much easier. Although a great source of joy, children, what with their personalities and their needs, can pile on both emotional and financial stress—and when you then add in a new parent, plus step-siblings or half-siblings, the process of determining who has the authority to discipline and intervene with which children (and in what circumstances) becomes as fraught as a U.N. negotiation.
Hands down, the kids have to come first, no matter which side they hail from. If you are dating someone who’s only focused on you and the relationship without consideration for the kids… run, don’t walk. That person doesn’t have it in him (or her) to be the stepparent your children deserve.
Here are some pointers to get the ball rolling in the right direction as you begin the introduction process.
Be selective. Don’t introduce everyone you date to your kids. If there is any doubt, don’t introduce. Only bring in someone that you think has real potential to have a future in their lives.
Be frank and talk openly to the kids about dating. Don’t sneak around or lie about where you are going. Get their input, thoughts and concerns. The more involved and in-the-know they feel, the less tension there will be in the house.
Don’t spend every Friday and Saturday out on a date. Make a date night with your kids as well. They need to feel important and not shut out of quality time just because there is someone new on the scene.
Talk to your new partner about each other’s children. Get to know as much as you can about them. Make expectations clear about the next step. You may not have the same viewpoint as to how big of a deal in a relationship meeting the kids really is.
As for where to meet, pick a low-key spot where there is not too much commotion.
Don’t make the initial meeting too long. Starbucks or ice cream is just fine.
Involve the kids in the process by asking for their ideas for where to meet. Make sure to take all ages into account if an activity is involved.
Be platonic at the get-together. Any PDA is a major no-no.
When the meet-and-greet is over, go home with your kids. Do not drop them off and then go out on a private date. Discuss how it went as a family and get the kids to express their feelings about the time spent all together. Then have some family time. Watch a movie and make popcorn. Turn off your cell and give 100 percent of your attention to your children. The more secure you make them feel the smoother this next step will be for you.
Adjusting to a new partner in your life is hard enough after a failed marriage. Blending this person plus children into the mix and making an expanded family work is a real challenge. Experts say that it takes four to seven years to successfully meld family units. This process is a true test of love and patience. Confidence and stick-to-itiveness is what will ultimately guide the success of this next phase.