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How do you introduce young children from a previous relationship to the idea that you are becoming seriously involved with a new person.

I want to help my girlfriend with this because lately, as of this holiday season, we have become very serious, but we have been going out of our way to hide any physical affection from the kids.

I am dating a girl with two little girls, 2 and 4 years old. She separated within the last year and hasn't really dated anyone seriously since the father. She has the kids 90% of the time and the father doesn't even get them over night. Because of this I pretty much am around them non stop. They are great, but I am super self-conscious about showing any physical affection towards their mother when they are around. The general consensus that we have come to is that we just didnt want to confuse them, but since we are together so much, it is just becoming jokingly awkward.

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up vote 8 down vote accepted

If the kids are that young, they're not likely to understand enough of the "rules" around showing affection to be confused.

This is coming from the dual experience of being the child in that situation, and from being around while a friend of mine (with two kids around the same age) split from her husband to start dating again.

In the second case, the only thing the kids occasionally got confused about what to call the new adult in their lives ("Dad", or the person's name, or something else) - this is a personal preference though, and would just be something you and your girlfriend (and possibly the girls' birth father) will want to agree on. At this young age, it's easily enforced.

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You should be aware that shying away from any physical affection will be noticed by the children, and while they may not understand it, they will take something away from it. This may make them less comfortable of physical affection in the future, it may make them register that you are always uncomfortable - which could make them less comfortable around you, or it may have other effects.

In any case, you should discuss it with your girlfriend, and probably start with simple affection - hand holding, an arm around each other when you are sitting on the couch, a cuddle which includes the children - all these things are very positive signs of affection.

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