Your new significant other has kids. You’re about to meet them for the very first time, and that has got you worried.
You’ve been through this before, of course, with your own kids: no matter who you brought home for them to meet, they always found some reason not to like your date – who felt immediately the status granted: persona non grata.
Sadly, many divorced parents would rather forego this cruelty to others and do so by waiting until the children have grown up and left the house before reinitiating their dating. Not only does that take precious time and pleasure from their lives, it also robs the children of the opportunity to address their feelings of fear and loss that have arisen since the divorce. And of course, there is no guarantee that, as grown children, they can look beyond their own issues when considering your happiness. After all, a wound that hasn’t had a chance to heal continues to fester.
Knowing that your new partner is now facing these realities, here are four ways in which you can both prepare for this very important event:
1. Don’t try to sell them on you. That is not why you are there. You don’t have to make them laugh, cry, or stand up and take notice. They aren’t on parade, and neither are you. Just be yourself. If you relax, then they will, too.
2. Don’t try to be their parent. That is your date’s job, not yours. You haven’t yet earned the children’s approval let alone their respect, and you won’t get it if you cross a boundary that immediately has them questioning your right to do so. Remember that you are a guest in their home.
3. Get involved. Show that you are interested in their lives as well as that of the parent whom you are dating. They are the most important people to someone who is now very important to you. Showing that you care is the best icebreaker there is.
4. Allow things to move at their own pace. Some kids are very accepting right off the bat. Others need time to adjust, but warm up to an adult who proves with actions the care and concern children seek. Your partner will always be the primary adult in their lives, so learn to live with that fact. This means learning to share. And, if the relationship is a keeper, your role in the children’s lives will evolve over time and at each stage of their maturity. They, too, will become your friends – if you start today in opening that door to them.