Dating as a parent is hard. First, you need to have the courage to dive back into the dating pool. Then, you need to find someone who is ready and capable of potentially being a step-parent to your children. If you’re among the singles parents who are raising as many as 22.4 million children in the United States, it might be tempting to introduce a new partner to your kids right away so that you can finally have some support in parenthood.

However, introducing a new partner to your children is a big deal. Kids become attached very easily and can be heartbroken if your relationship with your new partner doesn’t work out. To protect your children and yourself, let’s take a look at a few steps you should take before you decide to introduce your new partner to your children.

Know Your Partner’s Background

Almost everyone has dated someone that they later realized they didn’t know that well. While doing this in the past may have just made you feel foolish, there can be more serious consequences if you’ve introduced this virtual stranger to your kids.

Before the big introduction, make sure you’re aware of your partner’s background, past, and any other pertinent information about them. Have conversations about where they’ve lived, jobs they’ve had, and relationships they’ve been in. If you feel like they’re holding something back, you could do some investigating. There are services that will help you do a background check or look them up online for you to reveal if they have an arrest record, have taken out bail bonds or major loans, or have any other concerning pieces of history. This may seem like an extreme measure, but your kids have to come first. If you want to bring a new person into their lives, you need to make sure they’re safe enough to be in their lives.

Evaluate Your Child’s State of Mind

Whether you’re a single parent because of divorce, death, or just not being married when you had your child, kids can have very strong feelings about your dating life. Before you introduce them to your new partner, make sure that they’re in an emotional state that can handle having a new parental figure in their lives. If you’re recently divorced, evaluate how well your kids are adjusting to the divorce by looking for signs such as being sociable, having improved moods, and being willing to talk about the divorce. If their other parent has passed away, look for similar signs that they aren’t still grieving that parent.

When you’ve determined that your children seem to be well-adjusted, start talking to them about dating. Try explaining that it’s normal and natural for you, and your ex if you have one, to want to have boyfriends and girlfriends. About 40% of new marriages are a remarriage, so communicating to your child that it’s fairly normal for moms and dads to separate and find new partners who make them happy is important. While you discuss this, be sure to emphasize that your roles as parents won’t change at all and that as your kids, they will always come first.

If this talk goes well, you can begin to broach the subject with them of meeting your new partner. It may help to not put labels on your partner and instead call them a “special friend” or something similar. Be sure to answer any questions your kids have about this person and your relationship so you can address any anxiety they have about this new relationship.

Take Stock of Your Relationship

Perhaps the most important step to take before introducing a new partner to your kids is to be certain that you are serious about them. You don’t have to bring every person you date home. This will only give your kids the impression that anyone you date won’t stick around, so when you do meet that special someone they could be reluctant to accept them into the family. This doesn’t mean that you can’t casually date people. It just means that you should only consider introducing the person you’re dating to your kids if you’re in a long-term relationship.

Start taking stock of your relationship by asking yourself where your relationship going. Think about the conversations you have and evaluate whether your partner seems serious about you. Think about the things they do for you, like helping you with daily tasks or buying you things to make you happy. Approximately 37% of flowers bought are used as gifts and if you’re regularly receiving these tokens of affection, it could mean good things for your relationship.

Of course, the best way to gauge the state of your relationship is to have an open conversation with your partner. Analyzing conversations and gifts may only serve to send you into a spiral of overthinking. You have to ensure you’re both on the same page before you move the relationship forward. Sit down with your partner and talk about your future together. If they want the keep moving forward as you do, start discussing the possibility of meeting your kids.

Even after taking all of the right steps and precautions, there’s no guarantee that the first meeting between your partner and your kids is going to go flawlessly. Your children may still act out or your partner may suddenly realize they’re not ready to have kids in their life. What’s important is that you prepare everyone the best that you can and remember that your children will always come first.