Single parents and when to introduce your child to a new partner


Dating as a single parent is tough. It often seems impossible for single parents to find the time between parent-teacher meetings and bed-time routines, but making time for a new partner is even harder to organize.

If you’ve managed to include a new relationship into your busy life, you might be wondering; when is the right time to introduce this person to your child? How do I go about this the right way?

Introducing your child to a new partner is a decision that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Kids react to any change, and their psychological and emotional well-being is most important here. Every single parent’s worst fear is having their child resent or dislike their parent’s new partner, but there are ways to avoid this and to manage the situation to make the adjustment-period as smooth as possible for parent, partner and child.

Some parents might rush into a new relationship, and things might escalate pretty quickly, perhaps too quickly. Others might jump from one relationship to the next, and if a child is introduced to a new person every time, this can be extremely unsettling for them and can cause an unstable relationship between both the adults and the child.

In a write-up on Psychology today, child psychiatrist Dr. Mark Banschick writes; “It’s best to wait a long time before you introduce a new person into your children's lives, particularly if they are teens or younger. Don't put them in a position to have to decide whom they like better. Should they please you? Are they betraying their mom (or dad) if they like your new friend? Note that kids need time to grieve the loss of their nuclear family without having to deal with something new. And, make sure that you really love this new person and that the relationship is serious. A series of lovers or friends just provides instability for children and makes them feel unsafe (and makes you look shaky).

 “I think it's important to be careful when you introduce your child to your potential partner. There is a lot to be gained from taking it slowly. I think you need to know that the relationship is going to be long-term before you make introductions. It's confusing for kids when they are introduced to someone special in their parent's life. A slow introduction, for example a braai with friends where the partner is present and other fun activities where you can see how your child and your partner interact are important. When you have children and you are dating you need to remember that it not just you who is affected by the relationship, the kids are affected too. If your partner is 'worth their salt' they will understand your need to take things slowly and it will be an organic process. Listen to your child, they will often tell you how they feel about things when they are not under pressure. If your child isn't happy you need to find out why. Children learn from their parent's behaviour and it's vitally important that you model appropriate dating behaviour. They need to learn that love and affection are not conditional and that a partner is someone who respects your boundaries and your child's boundaries too. You can't expect your child to respect your partner if they don't respect the relationship between you and your child. You, as the adult, deserve to be loved and in a relationship but not at the expense of your child.”  Sian

“Ideally, one should wait until you know/feel your relationship is going somewhere before you introduce your child/children to your partner. It can be very confusing for them (especially if they do not have a good relationship with their dad). We are heading into the teenage years and although David has been in our lives for the last three years, he came in at a 'difficult' age. With Sebi’s hormones running rampant at the moment, we are getting a bit of backlash when David reprimands him 'you can't tell me what to do, you're not my dad'. Something I thought I would never experience.” Bianca

I think that it’s good to cement your relationship with your new partner and to know that it is going to go somewhere before you bring your child into the equation. That being said it is also age-dependent. As they get older they are way more aware and will pick up that something is different. I took Anna to the aquarium with John the other day and it was the first time we had all been together for a long period of time and she threw such a tantrum. She was playing up, probably because my attention was not all on her! It’s very tricky and can be a real deal-breaker.” Natalie

How do you go about introducing your child to a new significant other?

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