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Single parents, dates and kids

In our exclusive poll, we asked you: When is the right time to introduce your sweetie to your kids? Here, we share what you had to say — plus some expert advice.

You’ve just started dating someone new, and, while you’re not about to buy matching rings (yet), you’re pretty smitten. When is it time to introduce this amazing person to your kids?

Not too fast, according to our poll of more than 11,000 people. A scant 14 percent think it’s OK for single parents to introduce new dates to their kids after a few weeks, while another 17 percent say you should wait a few months. The vast majority — 69 percent — say kids should meet your new love only when you’re dating each other exclusively.

Why waiting is worth it

“It’s generally a good idea to wait until you’re dating exclusively before formally introducing your date to your kids,” agrees Lisa Cohn, coauthor of One Family, Two Family, New Family: Stories And Advice For Stepfamilies and The Step-Tween Survival Guide: How to Deal with Life in a Stepfamily. “You don’t want to set the kids up for disappointment if it’s someone they like and you guys don’t stick together.” You also don’t want your kids to develop relationships with too many of your dates — “that can be confusing,” cautions Cohn. And since there’s a certain amount of stress associated with bringing new relationships into the family — kids often get jealous, and ex-spouses can be vindictive — you might as well hold off until you know it’ll be worth any trouble that may ensue.

That said, there are good reasons to make an informal introduction earlier in the relationship, if only to establish something of a comfort zone. Cohn suggests arranging to casually bump into each other to let the kids check out your new sweetie, and vice versa. “A short conversation or a basketball game at the local playground would be appropriate,” she notes.

How to phrase it

Once you’re dating exclusively, the actual words you use for a formal introduction will change, depending on the age of your kids. Younger children require less information – simply say, “This is my friend, Bob,” advises Cohn — but older kids are wise to what’s going on and deserve a fuller explanation. So you might say, “This is my boyfriend, Bob” or explain that you’ve been dating for awhile. There’s no need to go into a whole lot of detail unless they ask specific questions. For example, says Cohn, “If they ask if you’re getting married, you could say that you might like to get married again someday, but you’re in no rush.” That way, you’re keeping everyone’s expectations down-to-earth and low pressure.

Writer Debra Kent is a single parent and author of the Diary of V book series.

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