A: Getting the kids and the new person in your life together for the first time can often be a very stressful event for everyone involved and requires a lot of preparation. I strongly recommend waiting until your relationship is exclusive and committed.

Here are a few general things to keep in mind:

• Later is better than sooner. Make sure your children are as ready as they can be. If you’re a widower, your kids may need longer to adjust to being without their mother. If you’re divorced or separated, your kids may still be hoping you and your ex will get back together.

• Shorter is better than longer. A few hours is probably enough for a first meeting. You all need time to ease into things.

• Have a plan. Don’t just arrange for everyone to get together to hang out. Plan some activities or a short outing.

• Prepare your children. Tell them you want them to meet someone very special, but don’t tell them how they’re going to feel about her. Doing so puts too much pressure on them and can make them feel horribly guilty if they don’t like her right away.

• Go easy on the physical stuff. You or your girlfriend may think that hugging and kissing each other in front of the kids will show them how much you love each other. It might, but it also might make the kids very uncomfortable, jealous and resentful.

• Warn her that you may be somewhat distracted. Your kids may be not be on their best behavior and you may need to devote a lot of attention to them. As a result, your girlfriend may feel jealous and left out. She may want you to reassure her that everything is OK, but that may be harder than you’d think. But try – even if that means holding her hand under the table.

• Don’t get your expectations too high. No matter how much you want it to happen, your new girlfriend and your kids probably aren’t going to be instant best friends. Best friendships take time to develop.

Armin Brott’s most recent books are “The New Father: A Dad’s Guide to the First Year, Second Edition” and “Father for Life: A Journey of Joy, Challenge, and Change.”

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