| June 6, 2012

Divorce is undoubtedly painful for everyone involved, especially children. That being said, a separation is meant to improve the well-being of your family in the long run. As time goes on and your children begin to adjust, you may even feel compelled to introduce new people — such as a boyfriend or girlfriend — to the family.

But at what point is it okay to introduce a significant other to your children, and how should you do it? We consulted M. Gary Neuman, rabbi and psychotherapist, for some answers. He gave tips on how to make your kids feel comfortable with your new relationship.

When should a child be introduced to a new significant other?
Children should not have a relationship with the significant other until it becomes serious, as they can fall in love with a new person quickly. Furthermore, I ask parents to wait about a year from the separation from your ex before kids are introduced to anyone. You need about a year to give the child time to adjust to the separation, and then more time to be able to develop a healthy relationship with your new significant other.

When the time is right, how should you go about introducing your significant other?
First, you should understand that just because you fell in love with this person doesn't mean your child will. In fact, it's counterintuitive to expect they will like this person. You need to be open with your children about your relationship:

  • Emphasize that despite this new relationship, you are still focused on the family of origin: "The reason I want to be with this person has nothing to do with you and our relationship; it's normal for me to want to connect with someone my own age."
  • Give a voice to their feelings. Kids might think: "If dad's girlfriend is here, there's less time for me." So on weekends, take time to spend a couple hours with only your kids, and then the rest of the time you can work on how to include your boyfriend or girlfriend into your life with your children.