In the year 2011 alone, there were 877,000 divorces and annulments the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you're in the midst of divorce and are starting a new relationship, introducing your new lover to your child isn't always easy. Although you may have mentally separated yourself from your soon-to-be ex-spouse, your child may not have and needs sensitivity when meeting your new potential partner.
It is best to wait for at least six months after separating to introduce your kids to a new lover, states the American Academy of Pediatrics on its HealthyChildren.org website. This doesn't mean that you need to wait until six months after your divorce is finalized -- especially if the proceedings drag out over time -- but six months after you tell your child that mommy and daddy are separating and one of you moves out. Although the recommendation is only a guideline and isn’t set in stone, the idea behind it focuses on taking time after splitting up before introducing a new person into your child's life.
You don't have to introduce your child to every new lover that enters your life after splitting up. Although it's perfectly normal to start dating after separating form your spouse -- even if the divorce isn't final -- you don't want to run the risk of your child building attachments to a casual lover or someone who may quickly exit your life. Also, during divorce proceedings the lives of both spouses may come under scrutiny, depending on the state. Your child may still have some uneasiness or questions about you dating while still technically married to her other parent. That said, choosing to introduce only a serious lover or someone who is a potential life-mate to your child is an all-around better option than asking every date in to meet the family.
Children may develop negative feelings to a parent's new lover out of the fear that a new boy or girlfriend will shatter mom and dad's chances of reuniting, according to HealthyChildren.org. While you may see yourself as essentially divorced, the lack of finalization may mean more to your child. A yet-to-be finalized divorce may give your child a glimmer of hope that his parents will reunite and they will live as one happy family. Approach the first introduction between your child and a new serious love interest with sensitivity, preparing your child fully beforehand. Explain that finalizing your divorce is a legal matter and doesn't mean that you are re-considering. Let your child know that this new person in your life isn't causing the divorce or stopping you and your spouse from getting back together.
The uncertainty that your child feels about your impeding divorce may leave her worried or anxiety-ridden over her place in your life. Instead of simply bringing someone new in, having a brief introduction and then leaving your little one with a sitter for the night while the adults go out, involve your child in your date. You can include your child in a date to establish a relationship between her and your new potential mate, suggests the University of Alabama Parenting Assistance Line. Choose a fun-filled activity that all three of you can enjoy, such as bowling, ice skating or a night out at a family-friendly restaurant.
Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.
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