Meet and Greet - Introducing the Kids to Your Partner for the First Time by Rachel Brace

July 28th, 2021
Psychologist and author of Harriet's Expanding Heart, Rachel Brace, gives her best tips for introducing your children to your partner.

As with my first children’s book, Max’s Divorce Earthquake, inspiration for Harriet’s Expanding Heart came though my work as a psychologist and the support I provide children and parents as they reorganize their family post separation, divorce and, down the track, remarriage. 

Introducing your partner to you kids for the first time is one of the biggest milestones in a relationship. For all involved, it is an event that can in equal measures be nerve-racking and exciting (and everything in between). After all, you want it to go well. But it can be hard to predict how your kids – no matter what their age – will react. 

Never fear, like I tell many of my clients, some preparation and forethought can ease the way. Here is my top ten for introducing your new partner to your kids.

1.     Wait

Avoid the temptation to arrange a face-to-face meeting between your kids and partner too soon in your relationship. It is best to wait until you know that the relationship is serious, and you and your partner are committed. Most experts recommend waiting at least six – twelve months before organizing that first face-to-face meeting. 
2.     Where

The age of the children will inevitably play a part in where the introduction takes place. If teenagers are involved it’s best to meet on neutral territory and on a more mature level, say over brunch, lunch or coffee. Or even consider the visit happening around an activity that is age appropriate and that you know that they might personally enjoy, such as ten pin bowling, putt putt golf, a games arcade etc. In Harriet’s Expanding Heart, picnics at the park and visits to the zoo helped Harriet and her father’s partner, Emily, get to know one another.

Younger children are typically more relaxed in a familiar environment. Meeting them in their home, a favourite playground or something similar that is child friendly, are all probably okay. Just keep in mind that young children rely heavily on routines. Tired, hungry, stressed or overstimulated youngsters are less able to manage big emotions and more likely to lose it! If there is a toddler involved, plan the meeting around nap times.

3.     Preparation

Before the introduction occurs, take the time to talk to your partner about your children, their personalities, likes and dislikes and their interests. What do you and your kids enjoy doing together? When are they happiest? How do you handle discipline? Think also about what might be acceptable and unacceptable behaviour when they are around (for the adults and for the kids). Let them know if there are any taboo or touchy subjects to avoid when it comes to the children’s’ lives as well as their relationship with their other parent.  Ask your partner to have a think about what they would like the children to know about them before the kids actually meet them.

It can also help to give your partner some idea about what to expect when seeing you in parenting mode and together with your kids for the first time.

4.     Lighthearted and Upbeat

Aim to keep that first meeting low key and lighthearted. Project a positive attitude, even in the face of criticism or in the case of nervousness.

Plan for a relatively short get-together with a definitive end – you don’t want to magnify potential tension and awkwardness by dragging that first encounter on for too long. With this in mind don’t plan an overnight or a weekend retreat right away.

5.     Don’t Force It

Think about how your partner might greet the children for the first time. Don't pressure the kids to be immediately affectionate with your partner, and that includes making them offer or reciprocate a hug or kiss.  Forcing affection might make everyone feel uncomfortable, especially if little Max or Harriet shies away, says “no” or just freezes and does nothing. Consenting to a hug they actually don’t want also takes away from their ability to control the pace and risks making older children in particular feel resentful or withdraw – not a good start.

A simple hello, friendly smile and a bit of a hand wave can work well whatever the age of the child. Let younger children in particular warm up on their own pace. If they are shy or look like they are finding the situation difficult, your partner could say in a calm, easy going manner “I’d like to say hello to you, but it looks like you may need a few minutes, That’s okay. I’m happy to wait until you are ready”. 

6.     Labels and Language

The language you and your partner use when talking to your children about who your partner is should be age appropriate and in line with what they can understand. If they don’t recognise the term girlfriend or boyfriend then describing your partner as a ‘special friend’ may be a better option. However, if other family members (including the children’s other parent) refer to your partner as the boyfriend/girlfriend then, to avoid confusion and ensure consistency in what the kids are being told, you might also decide to use this terminology.

Think also what the children might call your partner – generally speaking their first name (or a well-used nickname) would be the obvious choice.

7.     Less Is More

The first meeting should ideally involve only you, your partner and your children. If your partner has children of their own resist the urge to include them. For things to go smoothly, your partner should be able to fully engage and interact with you and your kids without being interrupted or distracted by their own.

In a similar vein, avoid involving other family members such as grandparents etc. (either your own or your partner’s). You don’t want the children to be overwhelmed by meeting too many new people all at once and/or to be confused about who they are actually there to spend time with.

Where you and partner both have children, organise for your partner to meet your children and for you to meet theirs (in separate meetings) before you introduce the children to one another.

8.     Feelings & Divided Loyalties

Just like Harriet did in Harriet’s Expanding Heart, expect that your kids may experience some mixed feelings about their parent having a boyfriend or girlfriend and also about meeting that individual in person. Rest assured that this is completely normal. After all, in a majority of situations, death (of a parent) or separation/divorce have typically happened prior to your new relationship having begun.  Feelings of loss are often rekindled in children when a parent finds love (again) and moves on. This can be particularly true for those kids, like Harriet, that have clear memories of family life together with both parents prior to the separation or where the separation is fairly recent. For these children at least, transitions, grief and loss can be inextricably intertwined – and those first meetings can be hard.

Both during and after the first meeting, do your best to avoid asking your children questions about if they “like” your partner or if they are having “fun” (especially in the presence of your partner). These types of questions can inadvertently put the kids in the difficult position of having to respond positively when it may not necessarily be a positive or comfortable experience (for them). Additionally, in some family situations, there may also be repercussions somewhere else if they say they like this person and had fun.

Remain mindful of the potential for divided loyalties and that your children may harbour potential fears that if they like your partner this means that they are somehow being disloyal to their other parent. 

9.     Roles & Duties

If during the introduction the children mention their other parent, ensure that both you and your partner respond positively.

If they are rude or misbehave, it is your job as their parent to say something and to gently pull them into line. Likewise, if a younger child needs a nappy changed or assistance going to the toilet. Your partner should not try to jump straight into being a parent or correcting your children’s behaviour.

If the kids are aloof, seem uninterested or act up, try not to take things too personally.

10.  Realistic Expectations

Managing your expectations about this meeting and what it might mean for the future is also important. This means remaining mindful that:

·      Just because you really like this person doesn’t mean that your kid necessarily will. 

·      It’s perfectly okay if your partner doesn’t fall in love with the children overnight or vice versa.

·      If the first meeting goes well don’t assume that it will be smooth sailing from there on in. Conversely, if things do not go quite according to plan, it is not the end. There will be plenty of second chances.

·      The type of relationship you partner establishes with your kids is not a reflection of your relationship with your partner. They can, and will, go at different speeds.


When the children actually meet your partner, it is absolutely appropriate to mention it to their other parent (email/text message is fine). This is not because that parent gets a say in who you date or your life per say. It’s because when mums and dads re-partner, children can react with a range of different emotions and they will inevitably require both their parents support in understanding and managing their feelings. You also don’t want your kids to be the messenger that shares this news with their other parent (especially if you hold any concerns about how that parent might react) and you cannot in any circumstances ask them to keep it a secret that they have meet this person.

Thank you to Rachel for her wonderful and professional advice in this blog piece.You can find Rachel on Instagram and on her website.

Harriet's Expanding Heart

It's normal for children living in stepfamilies to have lots of different feelings and to feel different things at different times. 
This story shares Harriet's emotional experiences surrounding her stepfamily beginnings.
Purchase Here

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Tags: author, children, children's book, family, introducing, stepparents, divorce, kidslit, mental health, parenting, picture book, psychology, publishing, self publishing, step family

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