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Introducing Kids to Someone Your Dating

Parenting involves a lot of tough decision-making.  One of the toughies, specific to single moms, is when to introduce their children to their dates.  While there’s no generally applicable one right answer to this question, there are factors to consider than can help guide single moms when making this decision.

How well established and stable is the dating relationship?

If the dating relationship is brand new or tumultuous, it may be better for mom not to introduce the boyfriend to her children unless/until the relationship is well established and stable.

Is the boyfriend a good role model for the children?

If the boyfriend would be a good role model for children, the mom may find that introducing him to her children will be a positive experience for all involved.  If the boyfriend is not a good role model for the children, then it may be better for mom not to introduce him to her children (or even to keep dating him).

Is the boyfriend good with children and interested in forming a connection with her children in particular?

If the boyfriend is good with children and interested in forming a connection with her children, the mom may find that introducing him to her children will be a positive experience.  If the boyfriend is not good with children and/or interested in forming a connection with her children, it may be better for mom not to introduce the boyfriend to her children (or even to keep dating him).

What other concurrent changes or potentially emotional experiences are the children undergoing?

If the children are going through a lot of changes (i.e., the recent divorce of their parents, a relocation, school changes, new nanny, etc.), other changes should be kept to a minimum.  If the children are going through a particularly emotional experience (i.e., teen angst, intense conflict between their divorced parents, etc.), other events which could cause intense negative emotions should be kept to a minimum.   (Side note: no matter how much the children may dislike parental conflict, most children will still find it somewhat distressing when their divorced parents first start dating others.)

How old are the children?

If the children are toddlers through grade-school aged, they are more likely than infants and teens to struggle with the concept of their mom dating someone other than their dad.  It bears noting, however, that teens too can have significant negative emotional reactions, based largely on the answers to the preceding questions.

What will the children learn from the introduction(s) or the lack thereof?

Will the children learn that adults can be resilient . . . that, following a loss such as a divorce, it is emotionally healthy to embrace new opportunities?  Will the children learn that relationships are impermanent . . . that you cannot trust any relationship to endure?   [Consider the following two circumstances.  Circumstance A:  mom divorces dad, dates boyfriend #1, introduces him to the children, breaks up with boyfriend #1 (or is broken up with by that boyfriend), begins dating boyfriend #2, introduces him to the children, and ultimately develops a stable marriage to boyfriend #2.  Circumstance B:  mom divorces dad, dates boyfriend #1, introduces him to the children, breaks up with boyfriend #1 (or is broken up with by that boyfriend), begins dating boyfriend #2, introduces him to the children, breaks up with boyfriend #2 (or is broken up with that boyfriend),  and so on through a long list of boyfriends.]  Alternatively, consider what the children will learn if no introduction occurs.  Will the children learn about healthy boundaries?  Will the children learn to withhold information about themselves from those they love?  Will the children “learn” (or develop the perception) that they are third parties to their mom’s personal life?  Will the children learn to temper their protective instincts regarding their mom?

Because there is no generally applicable one right answer, moms must assess their own unique circumstances and decide for themselves when it is appropriate to introduce their children to their boyfriends.

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