How to Introduce Your Child to a New Partner After a Divorce

Parent introducing their children to their new partner

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Many divorced parents who have begun dating someone new may wonder how to introduce their children to their new partner. There may be tension between wanting your kids to know the person you are getting serious about, while also wanting to protect your children's feelings and exposure to new people who may or may not stay in their lives long-term.

It can be confusing, overwhelming, and stressful to decide how to make this important introduction—and when the time is right. But with some planning and consideration, you can help this initial meeting go smoothly. We turned to experts to learn more about how and when to introduce your kids to your new partner, how to plan the meeting, and how to prepare for the emotions that might arise.

Consider the Timing First

Only you can know when the time is right to introduce your significant other to your kids. There isn't one perfect time, so you'll need to consider all the pertinent factors, including the age and maturity of your children, the time since the separation from their other parent, your family dynamic, and the circumstances of your divorce. You'll also want to think about how your child will potentially react, as well as their emotional state.

"Consider why you want to introduce [your partner] to your children and if the timing makes sense," says Michael Whitehead, PhD, LMFT, a marriage and family therapist in Twin Falls, Idaho. Think about how serious you are with your new partner and how confident you are in the relationship.

It can sometimes be confusing or unsettling for kids to meet lots of new people their parent is dating. Once you know your new partner well and are sure that you want them to be an integral fixture in your life, it's likely time to let them meet your kids, says Dr. Whitehead.

Decide Where to Make the Introduction

Once you've concluded that the time is right for your new partner to meet your kids, the next step is to decide where to have this introduction take place. You'll want to make sure it's in a space that feels safe, welcoming, and comfortable for both your kids and your new partner. You also want to pick a place that's conducive to getting to know each other.

There are many good options, including your home, a restaurant, a park, or as part of an activity you know your children enjoy, such as playing a game, getting ice cream, or shooting hoops. The key is to choose a setting where everyone will feel at ease—and ideally, a place that fosters a bit of levity or fun.

What to Do During the Introduction

Prepare your children in advance by letting them know exactly what to expect, suggests Aliza Pressman, PhD, a psychologist at Mount Sinai Kravis Children’s Hospital in New York City. Tell them when and where they will be meeting your new partner and what the plan entails, whether you're having lunch together, going on a walk, or just sitting and having a conversation.

"Find common ground or common activities," advises Lori Sims, a cofounder of Nacho Parenting, a parenting approach for blended families. "Anything you all enjoy will help build rapport."

When the time arrives, you'll want to do an official introduction. You can facilitate conversation as needed by telling your kids and partner things about each other. "Be there for support," suggests Dr. Pressman, adding that it's important to pay attention to how the experience is going for your child.

Having an activity you can do together can help by providing something to talk about—and is likely to make this initial meeting feel a bit less awkward. So, if you've decided to go on a bike ride, kick a soccer ball in the backyard, or just have a snack together, prepare to move right into the activity rather than make too much small talk first.

Once the activity is over, have your partner say their goodbyes and then leave. Then, give your child some time to talk to you about the experience, if they'd like. You can also set up a time for your next get-together so your kids know what to expect in the days and weeks to come.

How to Handle Your Child's Reaction

Your child may react in a variety of ways, says Dr. Whitehead. They might be happy, sad, confused, or angry. They might be very polite and friendly, or they could appear shy and standoffish—or anywhere in between. It might be helpful to consider ahead of time what your child's individualized response may be, but also remember that they might act out of character since this situation could bring up a variety of unexpected emotions.

Prepare both your child and your new partner for the meet-up by letting them know that this could be an emotional experience and that all feelings are welcome. "Aim to give your child grace, compassion, and space to feel what they feel," says Dr. Whitehead. However, also make clear what behavioral expectations you have, such as being respectful and not interrupting.

If you expect a smooth introduction, centering it around a meal, outing, or activity can make the occasion more fun and provide easy ways for everyone to get to know each other. This is especially helpful if you think your child may feel a bit shy or unsure of what to talk about. That said, suggests Sims, don't force the connection. Aim for the bond to develop naturally.

On the other hand, if you think your kids will be more resistant, arranging this introduction at home or in another private place may be a good option in the event that emotions run high, suggests Dr. Whitehead. If this is the case, aim to keep the meeting short. You can also communicate to your child that they don't have to be excited about your new partner and that you understand that this reality can be unsettling to them. Be sure to keep the line of communication open and let them know you're available to talk at any time.

Other Things to Consider

Make sure your child knows that you love them and that they are your priority no matter what, says Dr. Pressman. While it may seem obvious to you that your new partner won't detract from your relationship with your child, sometimes kids worry that you might love them less or will have less time for them. Listening to them and attending to their emotions can help them feel heard, valued, and loved.

Your child may also have lots of questions about the relationship, and how the relationship may impact them. They may wonder if you intend to marry this new person, or how often they might have to see them. Preparing to answer some of these potential questions can help you respond without getting flustered or caught off-guard.

It might also be beneficial to get outside help if needed. Talking to another trusted adult or getting counseling can be helpful if your child is having trouble coping with your new relationship or with the divorce in general, explains Dr. Whitehead.

You'll also want to consider informing your ex-partner that you are going to introduce your new partner to your kids. Whether or not you do this ahead of time is up to you, but if you have open communication with your ex, it can be a considerate gesture to let them know.

 A Word From Verywell

Deciding when and how your new romantic partner meets your kids can be difficult. However, with thoughtful consideration and planning, you can help to make the introduction go smoothly. Be sure to remind your children that you love them and are there for them, and keep the line of communication open to address whatever questions may arise.

If you have concerns about your child's emotional state, be sure to reach out to a therapist, counselor, their pediatrician, or healthcare provider.

5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Stepfamilies.

  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Helping families and children deal with divorce and separation.

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Communication dos and don'ts.

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. How to shape and manage your young child's behavior.

  5. American Academy of Pediatrics. Improving family communications.

By Sarah Vanbuskirk
Sarah Vanbuskirk is a writer and editor with 20 years of experience covering parenting, health, wellness, lifestyle, and family-related topics. Her work has been published in numerous magazines, newspapers, and websites, including Activity Connection, Glamour, PDX Parent, Self, TripSavvy, Marie Claire, and TimeOut NY.