Q: My new boyfriend wants to go to my son's baseball games with me, but he and my ex-husband have never met, and I'm worried there may be a scene. How do you think I should handle this?
A: The key here is "new boyfriend." It's commendable that you have met someone who wants to watch your son play, but it's not advisable to introduce your son to anyone unless you have an idea that he will be around for a while and will be a good influence on your son. You really don't know a "new boyfriend." You have to date for a while to find out if you have the same likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams. If you find yourself planning a life together, that's when you introduce the kids, and that's when he should start attending your child's games.
Ideally, right around the same time, you let your son's father know that you are in a serious relationship and plan to introduce your son to your new partner. Explain that your new partner will be attending your son's baseball games and to eliminate any awkwardness, you would like to introduce him to your ex as well. Make a date at a public place such as a coffee shop. I know this sounds incredibly civil and somewhat unrealistic, but you can create any relationship you want. If you want to get along for the sake of the kids, do it. You all don't have to be buddies — but out of respect for each other and for your son — make a pact to be cordial, particularly when your son is around.
Most divorced parents eventually meet someone new and try to make a go of it. Their children will live with these new partners, who will hopefully serve as positive role models. Knowing this, I am always surprised by the number of parents who have no desire to meet their ex's new partner. Parents think nothing of meeting their children's friends' parents prior to an overnight stay, but many say no to meeting their ex's new partner, even though they may live for days at a time with their child.
Finally, don't forget to check with the child to confirm that he even wants the new partner to attend. If the child knows there is tension between his parents, a new partner attending the games may be distracting and add to his discomfort. Make sure the child knows that everyone has met and all are looking forward to cheering him on.
Let the relationship with child and new partner develop naturally. If comfortable, the child may even be the initiator and ask, "Are you coming to my game this Saturday?" You can ask some kids you can ask directly. "Kent would love to watch you play. Would it be okay if I brought him to the game Saturday?" A child who grumbles or goes silent is reluctant. Don't push. Listen and be open to any questions the child might ask.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation, and the founder of bonusfamilies.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.