As a single parent, it is normal that at some point you will want to begin to date again and that hopefully you will find someone with whom you would like to spend a lot of your time. At some point, you will need to introduce this other person to your teenage children which can be complicated and cause you some significant stress and anxiety. Likely you will worry about what your teenager will think of this new person in your life and what this person will think of your teenager. (Before going further, it is important to note that this article is referring to parents who are in at least semi-serious dating relationships. It is generally never advisable to introduce children to individuals if the relationship is only causal as this can be confusing to them. In addition, you certainly don’t want them becoming attached to someone who you know will not be in your life for very long.) Introducing someone new to your teenager can be even further complicated if your teenager holds resentment following a divorce, or is still holding onto hope that you will get back together with their other parent. In such situations, introducing a new partner to your teenager will force them to see the reality that you are not reconciling with their other parent which can result in some difficult emotions for them.
Below are some tips for you, as the parent, if you are in a situation where you are dating someone and feel it is time for them to be introduced to your teen.
- Make sure you are feeling the relationship is going to last. By this I don’t mean forever since nobody can predict what will happen years down the road, however, if you see that the relationship will be short-lived, it is not advisable to introduce the other person to your children.
- Make sure the other person is open to meeting your children. If they are not, you should take a close look at the reasons why and question if this is someone who is appropriate for you to be in a relationship with. The reality is that you have children who are an important part of your life and if the other person is not interested in getting to know them, you will likely end up feeling very conflicted and set yourself up for a lot of guilt and stress.
- Prepare your teen. Don’t “surprise” them with a visit from your new love interest. This will likely not go over well at all and you will then have to undo any damage done. It is best to tell your teenager that you are interested in someone and that since they (meaning your teenager) are the most important thing in your life, you would like them to meet this person and let you know what they think.
- Don’t “sell” your boyfriend / girlfriend. Your teenager is smarter than you may think and they will pick up on this. It is fine to just say, “I want you to meet this person because they are a really good person and they treat me well”. If your teenager asks further questions then you should answer them honestly but don’t make the person out to be more than they are or feel you have to be a salesperson for them.
- Do something activity based. Try to minimize the pressure of just sitting and having a conversation. Even sitting and eating dinner can make people feel forced to just sit and talk which can be uncomfortable. Think about going bowling, to a movie or to a sporting event that will allow for interaction but much less pressure to simply sit and talk.
- Don’t be phony. Make sure that you act like yourself. Your teenager will pick up on any changes to your personality and will likely see it as very negative. They still want you to be their mom or dad as they know you, so make sure you are comfortable with what you do so that you can be yourself.
- Reassure. Reassure your teenager that they are the most important thing in your life, no matter what. If you have started dating, your time with them may have lessened or you may seem more distracted. It is important to remember that your teenager will be sensitive to this and that they will need reassurance both verbally and through your actions that they are still number one.
For more free resources for parents of teenagers go to www.HowToParentATeen.com.