It's widely known that introducing a new partner to young children can be trying, but what about older children? When they're older, they're opinionated. And they don't always get along with the person you are now seeing. That's why it's essential to set it up so that it doesn't cause conflict.
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Let your children know that you are dating
Finding out that your parent has found a partner when you didn't even know they were dating can be a shock. Finding out they have been seeing this person for quite some time already can feel like a betrayal. Why weren't they told sooner? Why are you keeping secrets from them?
Some children enjoy talking to their parents about dating; others don't. Respect that. But whatever way around, mention that you are dating and say when you meet someone you like. That way, it won't come as a shock when you announce that there's a new partner. And if you can, make them curious and excited about you dating in the first place—turn them into your cheerleaders. Ask them for confidence kicks. Tell them you're nervous and would appreciate their support.
Make them curious about the person you're dating
When first talking to your children about someone, make them sympathetic to the person. Contrary to popular belief, that does not mean listing all their positive qualities. Instead, share a "save the cat" moment.
In his book Save the Cat, Blake Snyder says to engage an audience in a story, the main characters need to save a cat in the first few pages. That means we need to see they are of good character by doing something commendable or dealing with something we can sympathise with.
Telling someone you met someone kind will not make the other person see them as kind. Hearing that said man or woman cooked chicken soup for the whole neighbourhood in flu season, on the other hand, will.
You can also try to find commonalities—if your children love ice hockey and this person used to coach a team, then by all means, speak about it. Just ensure you're not shoving it down their throats. Make them curious enough to ask questions, as opposed to trying to convince them about it. Let them come to their own conclusions.
Tell your partner about your children
Just as you tell your children about your partner, tell your partner about your children. Make him or her prepared to meet them by providing them with topics for conversation. Your partner needs to appear genuinely interested in your children. The best way to show interest is to ask questions.
Like creating sympathy, this goes two ways. Your children also need topics for conversation when meeting your partner. Chances are, both parties want to be liked and would love for you to help them along by giving them topics that will engage the other party.
When should you actually introduce your new partner?
Some people choose to introduce their children to anyone they're dating when social opportunities present themselves. When doing so, they make it clear it isn't serious, and they're just a friend for now. That way, the children are used to meeting new friends and don't think much about it. Once you're serious about someone, you simply say so and arrange a more intimate get-together.
On the flip side, introducing your children in a serious manner to a string of partners it doesn't pan out with can cause a strain. If you only want to introduce your children to serious partners, then wait until you are sure they are serious.
If there are concerns, listen
If your children are opposed to your partner, or your partner to your children, listen. Make sure you really listen, not just oppose their opinion. Hear them out. Ask if you understood them correctly by repeating some of it back to them. Then ask them follow-up questions about why they feel that way. Also, ask them if they see any way of overcoming this. Ask them for their solutions as opposed to providing your own. Make them feel valued and important because they are.
Use a bit of Dale Carnegie on them
Have you ever read How to Win Friends and Influence People? You should. No matter how old you are and how many friends you have. Why? Because you can always improve your relationships. And this book will teach you how.
Carnegie talks about how to set something up so that people buy into it. For example, you might tell your children that you want them to be nice to your partner before setting up the meeting. But what about what your children want?
Your children probably want to know that you want them to be happy. They also want to know you value their opinion. And they'd appreciate seeing that you make it as easy as possible for them to meet your new partner.
Therefore, instead of telling your children they better like your partner, try something else.
Tell them you'd love their opinion on your new partner. But frame it up so that you also mention that you like this person, and you'd appreciate it if they keep an open mind for the sake of your happiness. Let them choose to do the right thing.
Ask them what they think would be a great way to make the introduction as smooth as possible? Do they think an activity such as bowling would be good, or would they prefer dinner? What works for them? Find something that will make both your children and your partner happy.
In short, by letting them lead, they will take pride in their actions. If, on the other hand, you try to force them to like your partner, chances are they won't.
Better yet, read or listen to Carnegie's book and develop the strategy you think will work best. In other words, the strategy that will make your children want to act as best as they can.
Of course, you should apply the same to your partner.
Keeping your children in the loop about your dating life and turning them into your cheerleaders help engage them in future potential partners. Even if they are not the cheerleader types, informing them that you are dating and telling them about someone you think you might get serious with is a good idea. This way, your children know you are letting them into your life.
You can choose to socially (i.e. at events that are taking place anyway) introduce various dates so that your children get to meet new people, knowing it isn't serious. For now, you're friends. You don't have to do this—it depends on your personality and what you're comfortable with.
When you get serious with someone, you do have to introduce them, though. If you wait till that point, first make sure you indeed are serious. Your children won't want to be introduced to a string of partners you claim to be serious with, only to see each relationship end within three months.
When speaking to your partner or children about the other party, drop hints that might make them curious to find out more, such as shared interests. Also, speak about things that will make the other party sympathise. Show that your partner and children have hearts by sharing good acts they've committed and show that they are vulnerable by sharing their trials and tribulations.
When making the introduction, make sure each party knows that you value their opinion. Ask what kind of meeting they would prefer? Also, tell them that you are genuinely seeking their opinion and would appreciate that they bear in mind the other person is important to you.