Dating after a divorce and when you already have children is a whole different ballgame from dating when you’re single and childless. This doesn’t mean, however, that you shouldn’t date or that you don’t deserve another stab at happiness that will last a long time—maybe even forever.

What it does mean, though, is that you have to be more cautious about whom you date and about when you introduce your new special someone to the children in your life. When you have no children, it’s only your emotions that you have to worry about, but when you have kids, their feelings and comfort levels should come first.

Make Sure Enough Time Has Passed

If the ink has barely dried on your divorce papers, chances are you shouldn’t be dating someone new just yet, let alone introducing him or her to your little ones. While every person and every family is different and while there is no “set” amount of time you should wait before you date again, you should make sure that your children are fully used to the idea that your past marriage and your past way of life has ended. Your children shouldn’t still harbor hopes that you and your ex will get back together, and if they do, then it’s likely too soon to bring someone new into the picture. The best way to find out how your kids are feeling is simply to sit them down and talk to them.

Are You Exclusive?

When you meet someone new whom you really like, it’s easy to jump the gun and assume that you’re in a steady relationship. However, if you’re not absolutely certain on the level of commitment that the two of you are at, then it’s wise to have the dreaded “define the relationship” talk. While this conversation can be uncomfortable, it lets you know where both of you stand and can help you to decide whether or not it’s really the right time to bring the kids into the picture.

Remember, too, that the decision isn’t up to just you. You should also assess your new mate’s comfort level with meeting your children, and you should pose the idea to your children as well and see how they react. When everyone is on board and you have a clear idea of your relationship status, this is the time to start mixing romantic love and family life.

Just Because You’ve Met Your Partner’s Kids…

If your partner has already introduced you to his or her children, you might feel like the pressure is on you to do the same. Keep in mind, however, that you are not your partner and that your children are not your partner’s children. Every situation is different, and just because it was the right time for you to meet your partner’s children doesn’t mean you have to reciprocate just yet. Do it when you feel it’s right, not because you feel pressured to do so.

Doing the Deed

When all the important discussions have been had and it’s finally time to introduce your partner to your kids, all that’s left to do is to plan the actual meeting. It’s best to plan a meeting that will be comfortable and low-pressure for everyone involved. A simple meal at a favorite restaurant or doing any fun activity can be a good way to break the ice, but ultimately, you should get everyone involved in the decision.

This article was written by Gregory Hutchinson on behalf of Badoo, a great place for online dating. Greg is a dating expert who has helped his friends and connections improve their dating lives.