One of the hardest things to do as a single parent is date. One of the hardest parts of dating is deciding when to introduce your significant other to your kids. If you search the internet, there are a million different websites and articles, by a million different people, offering a million different opinions on when the right time is.
The average is between three and six months, but I've seen some claim you should wait something like two years or until marriage. I personally think the latter is a bit much, and here's why: Keeping your significant other separate from the huge part of your life that is your kids keeps a part of yourself hidden from her. It also places a barrier in your relationship. When you have your kids, you cannot see this person.
What if you wait until you are married, the person moves in with you and you find out she is terrible with kids? Now that would just be awful. What if your kids don't like your partner? Kids read people very well because they're little minds are very open. They are sponges, observing everything we do. A kid will see who your partner really is long before you will. The last thing you want to do is marry someone and find out she isn't the right fit with your kids.
With that said, time and patience is always the best bet when it comes to bringing someone new into your children's lives. Don't feel like you need to rush it for any reason. The last thing you want to do to your kids is bring someone into their lives who is just going to leave. You want to ensure this is someone who is going to be there for the long haul.
When the time comes and you both are ready for the introductions, prepare your kids. Let them know you want them to meet your partner, and establish some sort of communication between them before they actually meet in person. Include them in a phone call to your partner or FaceTime. Let your kids see her face and talk to your partner.
Let them ask questions and answer them as honestly as possible. Do this a few times before they meet so your kids have already built some sort of comfort level with her.
When the time comes and they do meet her, here are five signs she's right for your kids:
1. She's ready when you're ready.
If she pushes you to meet your kids before you're ready, you have to ask yourself, "Why?" There's nothing wrong with your partner being excited to meet them, but she needs to understand it's a big step for you and your kids. If she is impatient and gets upset or angry at you because you aren't bringing her around them, she's probably not a good fit for your situation.
There's such thing as too much, and the one thing a single father needs in a new relationship is patience from his new significant other. Explain your reasoning, and remind her you do want her to meet them when the time is right. If she cares about you, she'll wait.
2. She goes out of her way to get on their level.
Initial meetings between a new girlfriend and your kids can be awkward. The reality is, you have no idea how they are going to respond to her. The best way to establish comfort is to get on their level. I'll give you an example: My girlfriend has no interest in video games. She doesn't care if I play them, but she's never played them and doesn't care if she ever does.
The first time she met my son, the first thing he asked her is, “Do you want to play video games with me?” She could've very easily said no, let me play with him and watched us. She didn't. She immediately picked up a controller, sat down on the floor with him and started playing. It was an instant connection.
They sat and played together for over an hour, laughing and talking like she'd been there forever. It was a beautiful moment that all of us will remember, and that meant the world to him. She got on his level and engaged in something he loved to make him happy. That's what building a bond with a child is all about.
3. The connection is instantaneous.
Kids can be the toughest people on earth to get through to. So if she immediately connects to them, you have someone special. Like I said before, kids read adults very well, and they will decide very quickly if they like you or not. If you bring her around and your child immediately bonds with her, it likely means she's a very special person.
The bond between your new partner and your kids is important. You don't want her to be just standing on the sidelines watching when you have them. You want her to be involved, and you want them to want her to be involved. It really is a great thing when you're getting ready to make your kids cereal, and he says, “I want Kelsey to do it.” It means they trust her, and they want her to know she matters to them.
4. They want her there when she isn't.
It's awesome the first time you pick your kids up for the weekend, and they ask if your girlfriend is coming over. It's even better when they get excited to hear she is. This isn't to say you should immediately start having her spend every weekend with you and the kids, as you need that time to spend with them one-on-one. But. it's huge if your kids want her there.
The one thing all children want is a family, and if they get that feeling of family when she is present, it's a good thing. Use that time wisely, and do things together. Go to the zoo or the water park, or play games. Give them an opportunity to build that bond with her.
Don't force the mommy role on her because that isn't good for them or her. But, you can her help out. If she loves being with you and your kids and wants to be there, let her be.
5. She takes the good with the bad.
A lot of times, a person gets into a relationship with a single parent thinking he or she is ready to take that responsibility on, and he or she really isn't. You bring your partner around the kids a few times, and slowly, she starts to pull back. It's easy to notice, and it's understandable.
Dating someone with kids, isn't easy for a woman. She has to accept that she'll always be number two no matter how much she loves your kids, and that can be a hard reality to face.
Whether you have your kids every other weekend or half the week, every day with them isn't going to be a good day. There will be days where your kids won't listen or will talk back, and she will see it. If that scares her off, she isn't right.
You need her to be more of a help than a hindrance in those situations. She should recognize where she stands, but support you and the kids as you work through it. She should be there to vent to when the day is through. If she's a right fit, she won't get scared away by your baby mama or your kid's bad day. It's par for the course, and she'll be willing to accept that. She'll be a positive addition to the situation, not a negative.
Every relationship is different, and every kid is different. There is no set rule or way things should — and will go — when bringing your new partner around your kids. These are some very simple signs to look for when determining if she's someone you think could be there for the long haul. The best thing we can give our kids is family, so best of luck in you search to find the right one for you.