By Marina Sbrochi, Author of Stop Looking For A Husband: Find the Love of Your Life, for GalTime.com
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You thought dating was hard the first time? Here you are, single again, but this time with children. You finally meet someone you really, really like and want to introduce him to your kids. How do you go about it? What if your youngsters don’t like him? What if he doesn’t like them? What if it doesn’t work out?
Before you even think about introducing your children to your new boyfriend, you need to have been dating for at least six months. No, I’m not crazy and neither are you. Didn’t your last relationship end in divorce? You don’t want that to happen again and you certainly don’t want your children to go through that again. It takes at least six months to begin to really know a person. You don’t want to introduce someone and one month later have to explain to your children why they don’t see "Mike" anymore.
I would also advise that you let your ex-husband know you are introducing someone to your children. I find it’s respectful if you have a good relationship with your ex. So take your time. It’s not a race to the altar again. It’s not just your life; it’s your kid’s lives too. Here are a few ground rules for dating with children.
1. No Expectations - This is a casual event. You can’t force anyone to like anyone. Telling your children they have to be nice or like someone is a sure fire way to ruin it. Let everyone meet and form their own opinions.
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2. Group Setting - Have the first five meetings be in a group setting. For instance, a backyard BBQ with friends and your new man. You introduce him as a friend and your children get the chance to know your guy in a fun, relaxed, no pressure atmosphere. A group setting allows children to feel non-threatened. It's best not to show affection during these first five meetings. He’s just a friend right now.
3. Go Slowly - Remember, you might be in love, but your children need time to get used to a new situation. Follow their cues. If you sense they are having issues, talk to them. Slow down if you have to. Trust me, going slow now will ensure you have success later.
4. One Mom, One Dad - Reassure your children that they only have one mom and one dad. No one will replace either of you. I told my children this a few months after I introduced my then boyfriend to them. My son actually liked my boyfriend so much he wanted to call him dad. I had to take him aside and say, “I am so glad you like him! But you only have one mom and one dad.” He was only five years old, so I kept it age appropriate.