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When Should a Single Mom Introduce Kids to Her New Boyfriend?
By Lisa Cohn

Dear Lisa:

I’ve been divorced for a year or so and have been dating someone for a few months. Both he and I have kids. How and when should we introduce our kids to each other?

Thanks,
Jennifer B.

Dear Jennifer:

Begin by first focusing on your relationship with your new boyfriend. Don’t rush to introduce your kids to him if you’re not sure your relationship will be serious.

Once you feel as if this may become a long-term relationship, talk about your boyfriend and his kids with your children, suggests Thomas Haller, MSW, author, along with Chick Moorman, of "The Ten Commitments: Parenting With Purpose."

"Mix in lots of listening so the children feel heard," he says. Then slowly, begin going on outings with your boyfriend and his kids.

Focus on doing child-oriented activities such as going roller blading or to the zoo, he says. But don’t push the children on each other. "Don’t jam everyone into one car," Haller advises. Instead, meet your boyfriend and his kids at the zoo or park.

"You don’t want at this point to push the kids into creating relationships. Allow the relationships to evolve slowly and naturally over time," says Haller.

At the activity, let the children mingle with each other. But again, don’t insist that they spend every moment together. Don’t plan for a whole morning of close encounters between your boyfriend and his kids and you and your kids. Give everyone some space.

You may find--like I did--that one of your children feels possessive of you and isn’t very open to sharing you. He may resist taking part in activities. In this case, it’s very important to meet your boyfriend and his kids at a public place where there are other people. Take the focus off your boyfriend and his kids. Tell your child that you want him to go to the activity with you, says Haller.

A resistant child may slowly warm to your boyfriend and his kids. Or he may like your boyfriend and his kids immediately—like my son did—but worry about losing you.

Try to view the world from your children’s point of view. They may be feeling protective of your ex-husband or possessive of you. Be sure to listen to them if they express these feelings. It’s important that they feel as if they are being heard and understood.

Remember, move slowly and patiently.

Keep me informed, Jennifer. And good luck.

Best,
Lisa

Lisa Cohn is co-author of "One Family, Two Family, New Family: Stories And Advice For Stepfamilies" and co-host of Stepfamily Talk Radio, an internet radio show. Visit her at www.stepfamilyadvice.com or www.stepfamilytalkradio.com.

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