You didn’t think you would ever fall in love again, but your new partner is kind and funny, and he loves putting M&Ms in his popcorn just as much as you do. Best of all? When you guys were on your second date and you mentioned that you have kids, he didn’t even flinch. In fact, he was excited. Now you’re finally ready to introduce him to your brood, but you’re understandably cautious. We tapped dating expert Maria Sullivan, vice president at Dating.com, to find out how to handle this meeting thoughtfully (and without drama).
1. Prepare your kids
Don’t spring this all-important meeting on your minis without any warning. “It’s important to connect with your kids and be honest with them about your relationship status, especially if you’re ready to have them meet your significant other,” says Sullivan. “Having a conversation ahead of time will allow you to gauge how your kids are feeling about meeting your new partner and avoid any surprises,” she adds. Whatever their reaction may be, don’t reprimand them. Instead, validate their feelings and let them know that it’s perfectly normal for them to feel that way. (And if the response is really extreme, be prepared to postpone the meeting for a little while longer.)
2. And your partner too
Your new honey probably knows a little bit about your children already, but share your kids’ likes and dislikes beforehand so that he can really connect with them when they meet (and have enough time to research relevant Pokémon characters). Depending on how old your children are, you might want to suggest he bring a small gift to help break the ice. This will also give them the opportunity to play together—a significantly less awkward way to get to know each other than sitting down face-to-face.
3. Keep the first interaction short and sweet
“When planning the first meeting, make sure it is a place your kids enjoy, like their favorite restaurant or ice cream joint,” suggests Sullivan. Don’t bring your partner home, which could make your kids feel like their space is being invaded. Pick a fun, low-key activity on neutral territory (like going bowling) and keep the meeting to one hour or less.
4. Don’t rush the relationship
Of course you’d love for your kids and partner to have their own special bond, but remember that relationship building takes time. (And just because you’re infatuated doesn’t mean your kids will be.) “Don’t rush the relationship by overwhelming your kids with your new significant other,” says Sullivan. This strategy could backfire. Instead, take your time and don’t force it. If the initial meeting goes well, plan a few more hangouts that are equally low-key and brief (in other words, just because everything seemed to go well the first time doesn’t mean you should schedule a family weekend away just yet). Remember: Good things come to those who wait.