Before the kids—your kids and your new love's kids—meet each other, you'll need to prepare. Don't just throw them all in together and expect it to work; it might, but then again it might not, and this is too important to leave to random chance.
Here are some steps to take to make sure the meeting goes as smoothly as it possibly can:
Don't Be Wicked
Don't freak out if your child instantly hates your new Sweetie. Give it time, talk with both of them (alone), make sure any misunderstandings are cleared up, and then stand back. It's their relationship.
- Do a pre-date survey with your Sweetie. Each of you should fill out The Parent Questionnaire and then sit down together to talk about the kids. Try to figure out what kind of meeting will work best for each.
- Assess each child's temperament and needs as honestly as you can. Fibbing here will do nobody any good.
- Talk to the kids about the meeting, but keep it cool. Don't suddenly announce that they are about to meet some other kids who may, someday, be their new siblings.
- If you have teens or preteens meeting other teens or preteens, be aware of possible sexual energy and tension. (There's more on this Stepfamily Problems.)
- Plan an activity. Everybody staring at each other in a living room or restaurant may not be a lot of fun.
- If you're combining little kids and older kids, gear the activity toward the youngest common denominator, or toward the child who—temperamentally—has the most needs. A tantrum or meltdown will prevent anything else from working.
- The meeting place or activity should take place somewhere where there are opportunities for kids to retreat. Try a picnic in a park—some kids can be playing, some reading, and there is room enough to run around.
- Keep the activity to the length of a birthday party. That means no weekends away, at least until you all know each other much better!
Don't Leap to Conclusions
No matter how well or how poorly the first few encounters go, it's important to remember that while first impressions and first reactions are important, they are not necessarily true indicators of how all your relationships will change, grow, and develop over time. What you think and feel now is not necessarily what you all are going to think and feel later.
Relationships are a process. First meetings are important: They can help smooth the way, but they are not the only determining factors in the relationship. As you'll learn, things will both ease up and get harder. Try to look at the big picture.