Dating as a single parent can be complicated. Not only do you have to find a guy who will accept that you and your children come as a package, you also need to help your kids come to terms with the fact that you have a new boyfriend. It can be tough for children to see their mom get close to a man who is not their dad. But if you consider your children's feelings at each stage of your new relationship, you shouldn't go too far wrong.
Date your partner for at least six months before introducing him to your children. It takes this length of time to really know a person, says Marina Sbrochi, author of "Stop Looking for a Husband: Find the Love of Your Life." Your children have already gone through their parents' divorce, so you should do all you can to minimize any future hurt. Divorce expert M. Gary Neuman agrees that you shouldn't introduce your children to a new partner until you are certain it is going to be a long-term relationship.
Introduce your partner to your children as your friend the first time they meet him. Let them get to know him on that basis and nothing more. Include other people in your arrangements the first few times your children spend time with your partner. Your children will be more relaxed if they are surrounded by friends and relatives. Avoid any displays of affection during this initial period. Give your children time to accept your partner as a friend and a part of your life and they are more likely to accept him as your boyfriend later on.
Reveal the nature of the relationship to your children after they've gotten to know him a little as a friend. Tell them he is your boyfriend and be prepared to answer some tough questions, depending on how old your kids are. Be honest with them, without going into unnecessary or inappropriate detail. Give them time to get used to the new situation. Take it slowly; don't rush into lots of overnight stays and displays of affection. Observe how your children react and deal with any issues that arise. Reassure your children that your boyfriend is not a replacement for their dad.
Spend lots of quality time with your children without your partner, even when you have been together for a while and the children are comfortable with him. Remember that you were a family before he came along, and it's important for your kids to know that they are still your priority. There's no need to include your partner in all family outings, says Neuman. If he's always around, your children could feel pushed out, even if they get along with him.