So you’ve met someone you really like. Things are going well between you. You’ve had a few dates, shared a lot of thoughts about life. And now seems to be the right time to introduce your new friend to your kids.

It’s always a difficult thing to bring a new person into the lives of your kids. If they are very young, chances are that they will simply accept a new adult in their life. But when they get older, and a bit more aware of what a new relationship for you might mean for them, then it makes sense to handle the meeting very carefully.

If your partner comes from a different culture, and particularly if he or she comes from a different ethnicity, then you need to prepare even more carefully. If you live in a multi-cultural society, for example in a big city like London or New York, then chances are that your kids will barely notice. However, if your children are less accustomed to people who might look and sound different, then you probably need to do some mor careful preparation. In either case, introducing a stranger into the family scene can be stressful for kids. So make it as easy as possible on all of you.

Be Honest

As soon as you have had a date or two, and think that your relationship might be going somewhere, introduce the topic to the kids. “I’ve met a really nice new friend, and I’d like you to meet her sometime soon,” is the kind of way to introduce the topic. Just let the idea sink in for a while. You may find that the children are completely uninterested, or at least, say little or nothing. Just leave it there, unless they ask questions. In which case, be honest, but don’t rush to say, “Oh by the way, she’s Hindu (or African American, or White, or whatever…) unless they specifically ask.

Talk About Plus Points

Children are self-centered little creatures as a rule, especially when they are young. Therefore, bring up the points that they are going to see as wins for them. “Rob has a great pool in his yard, and we can all use it.” “Lakshmi is the best cook, she makes fantastic ribs, and she’s promised to make them for you.” “Ben has the cutest dog, he loves to play with his ball.”

Show A Picture

The best way to introduce ethnicity is to show a picture. Try to take a picture that shows your friend doing something interesting. For instance, taking part in sport, playing with a pet, making some art, with their own kids – rather than just a portrait. This draws attention away from ethnicity, and towards the real person that they are.

Meet Somewhere Neutral and Low Key

Arrange the first meeting somewhere that the kids like – maybe take them for pizza. A family place where everyone will feel comfortable, like the playground or the park, works well. Ensure that the meeting will not go on too long. If your partner has kids, then it’s a good idea for everyone to meet at the same time. Don’t make it a big deal, but insist on good behavior. Above all, don’t make it a really big deal – informal is the key.

You can expect that there are going to be bumps in the road. But as a rule, if your children see that you are happy, that you love them, and that your new friend is going to be a plus in their lives – then things should go well.