Dating after a divorce is always a daunting prospect, especially if you have children. Many parents are unsure about the best way and time to introduce children to new dating partners in a way that encourages the new relationship while helping children to feel safe and secure. The following are considerations and steps that parents need to take when considering introducing a new person into their children’s lives.
- Give them reassurance.
Your children need to know that their relationship with you will not change because you are beginning to date. If you child feels secure in their relationship with you, they are less likely to feel threatened or afraid of a new person. It is important to put your children first and not place a new relationship ahead of your parenting time. Quality time with you reassures your child they are important and that you are paying attention to their needs.
- Encourage your child to express their feelings about your dating.
Listen and show concern, do not over react by correcting, yelling, judging or criticizing them or their feelings. The goal is to help them express their needs and feelings about the situation without making them feel guilty for telling you how they feel. Don’t ignore it or try and gloss over it just because you are uncomfortable with what they are feeling. Listen to their needs and be attentive to them, even if that means stepping backwards or going slowly in a new relationship.
- Don’t introduce casual dating partners to your children.
Children become attached easily and may be confused by seeing multiple people come in and out of your life. Children don’t understand adult relationships, so it is wise to be discreet so that you will avoid causing confusing and stressful feelings in your child.
- Don’t force an introduction on your child.
Never force your child to meet or accept someone you are dating. Give the child time to get to know the new person in your life on their schedule—not on yours. If handled correctly, given time, your child will accept the relationship and be open to being a part of it.
- Be a positive about the other parent and ensure your new partner does the same.
Children learn more by example, so make sure you and your new partner only speak positively about the other parent and never bad mouth or talk negatively about him or her. Your child will not accept a new person in your life if he or she speaks poorly of the other parent. Respecting a child’s feelings and being sensitive to them will go a long way in the child accepting your new significant other.
- Don’t allow your date to discipline.
Your children will respond to you better than your boyfriend/girlfriend. You are the parent and while your child should follow your rules around a new partner, only the parents should be involved in the discipline of your child. Set boundaries for your children and teach them how to behave appropriately yourself.