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Five Reasons Kids Should Wait to Meet Their Parents' Significant Others

by Judy Kilpatrick

Kids are resilient. Change is constant, and most children navigate the waters very well. By the time they are in middle school, most have experienced at least a handful of significant changes. Children learn to know and get along with different teachers, schools and classmates, and in a great many cases, new siblings. Parental divorce is an unpleasant experience for each member of the family, but children adjust when parents demonstrate sensitivity to their children's emotions. Preparation makes transitions easier, and that is why there are at least five reasons why kids should wait to meet their parents' significant others.

Allowing children time to adjust to their parents' separation and divorce is an important step to navigate before they have to adjust to a potential new family member. Children usually have two homes instead of one after their parents' divorce, and the rules can vary from one house to the other. Family dynamics change in a major way. Give the children time to get used to the new arrangements. Dr. Mark Banschick, a child psychiatrist, recommends waiting a year before your kids meet your significant other.

Avoid bringing loss to your children; being reasonably sure the relationship will last is another reason to wait. New romantic relationships are built on chemistry and novelty -- a whole lot of fun -- but new relationships are in the trial phase. Allow yourself time to gauge the longevity of the relationship by giving yourself and your significant other freedom to get to know each other before adding the kids to the mix.

Prepare your children's other parent; this will take time, too. Once your new love passes the time test, decide when to tell your children's other parent about your relationship and your intentions for a meeting with the children.

Assess your children for mistaken or negative ideas about blended families. Allowing them to explore their feelings in the abstract is a good reason to delay introducing a real-life significant other. Watch movies together that involve dating parents with children. Discuss the movies and give special attention to your children's concerns or areas of reluctance. Point out the positives. Your children will accept a potential stepparent more readily after positive expectations emerge.

Give your children time to get to know your significant other without announcing a romantic relationship. Include your new friend in group gatherings -- such as cookouts -- before you acknowledge your emotional connection.

About the Author

For Judy Kilpatrick, gardening is the best mental health therapy of all. Combining her interests in both of these fields, Kilpatrick is a professional flower grower and a practicing, licensed mental health therapist. A graduate of East Carolina University, Kilpatrick writes for national and regional publications.

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