As discussed in the previous divorce article "When Should Divorced Dads Introduce The New Girlfriend?" mental health professionals agree the best practice is to wait before introducing someone new to your kids.
But when the time comes to introduce a new partner, experts agree divorced dads can create the best meeting place by choosing a neutral location and a short activity with a definitive end.
Nancy Fagan, divorce consultant and owner of San Diego's Divorce Help Clinic, encourages fathers to discuss with their children who they will be meeting. Afterwards, let the kids explain how they feel.
"Don’t try to talk them into liking the person," Fagan said. "Instead, let them know however they are feeling is okay."
Dr. Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. (aka "Dr. Romance"), licensed psychotherapist and author of "The Unofficial Guide to Dating," advises her clients to introduce new partners as a "friend."
After enough time passes and fathers are happy with how their new partner treats their children, establishing a formal relationship label is appropriate.
"Insist that children behave politely," Dr. Tessina says and adds this should be true of any adult friends of their parents.
Since new relationships form outside of a father’s time with his children, dads need to establish clear boundaries between their custody arrangements and their new significant other. Maintaining alone time with their children is a priority.
Building routines and establishing stability should be the father's focus during and after a divorce. A significant other will need to respect the father’s boundaries and fit their lives around the father and his children.
Balancing parenting time and relationship time is challenging, but healthy for kids. It’s something fathers can control. Creating a comfortable meeting location for the new partner and children is also something fathers can control.
A variable that parents are powerless to is the child’s age. Children aged 6 and under are easier to transition to a new partner as their cognitive development is still establishing.
Older children tend to be more confused, have opinions and have more memories of their former family life that they may miss and compare new experiences with.
At the Divorce Help Clinic, Fagan witnesses better transitions with children under 6 and tells dads to feel comfortable allowing their kids to bring a security blanket or item when meeting the new partner.
Divorcing or divorced dads who meet someone new are ready to celebrate their happiness and share it with their children. These dads are also familiar with the lengthy process of divorce and healing, and should apply the same patience to introducing their new partner to their kids.
Dads can take all the time they need and their new "friend" should understand.
Read related article: "When Should Divorced Dads Introduce The New Girlfriend?"
Tara Lynne Groth is a full-time freelance writer residing in Cary, North Carolina. Her work has appeared in places such as GO (AirTran Airways’ in-flight magazine), the Providence Journal and Chesapeake Family. Learn more about Tara by visiting her website www.taralynnegroth.com.