Whenever there are children involved in a relationship, there are exceptional circumstances that can add stress between partners. This is especially true when one partner is coming from a heterosexual relationship where the children are used to seeing their mother with a man, often their father. Getting used to the idea that mom likes girls now is enough of an adjustment, and meeting the girl is that much trickier.
Children commonly view mom’s new love interest as an interloper in the parent/child dynamic. If your girlfriend’s introduction to the kids is not handled in a respectful way, resentment can often crop up in the children, your partner and yourself. Fortunately, there are a few things that can help you ease the introduction process and set things up for a healthy relationship between your girlfriend and your children.
Ease Into It
When introducing your partner to your children, start slowly. Depending on how much time has passed between the break-up of your hetero relationship and now, allow time for the kids to get used to the idea of you on your own. Keep the idea of your new relationship to yourselves at first; this allows you form a foundation before adding the kids into the mix. This also helps you to make sure that she is someone who you want in your children’s lives. Start with low stress events, like meeting for a short time at a public activity. As they get to know one another, branch out into longer meetings at private events, like dinner and game night at your house.
Cut Down on PDA
This one is a bit self-explanatory, but it does need mentioning. Children need to observe healthy displays of affection in adult relationships; overt displays in the beginning may leave them feeling awkward and resentful. Stick to traditional viewpoints here and err on the side of caution. Hand holding and hugging is a great start. As your children get used to the idea of your girlfriend, they will grow to accept PDA as natural evidence of the love you share.
Let Affection Come Naturally
As your girlfriend’s relationship with your kids progresses, they’ll organically discover things about each other that they admire and things that they could probably do without. It’s important not to force your children to show affection toward your girlfriend before they’re ready, including special nicknames that they call her. If it’s forced, they’ll never truly grow to share real affection for one another. As hard as it may be, discuss what you expect from your partner and what your hopes are with your kids and then back off. Let it flow naturally.
Maintain Proper Boundaries
Whenever you add a partner to the existing dynamic you and your kids share, there are likely to be boundary infringements. Boundaries are rules and expectations that each family member sets with each family member. For example, a healthy boundary could be that you’re the only one to reproach your children about bad behavior. Discussing these boundaries is imperative to your relationship. In the beginning, boundaries are more emotional and as you progress into your relationship, they’ll become more utilitarian, such as giving permission for something.
Introducing your kids to your girlfriend is full of expectations as you want them to love her as much as you do, and you want her to love them as much as you do. Setting things up so that everyone involved is comfortable with the process will lay a solid foundation for your story together.