This is the fifth post in a multi-part series on practical steps parents can take to reduce the negative impact of separation and divorce on children. These blog posts are based on the book “Kids First: What Kids Want Grown-Ups to Know about Separation and Divorce” written by the staff of the Kids First Center in Portland, Maine. In the last post we talked about how to handle changes in holidays and celebrations. In this post, we’ll discuss how to approach dating and new relationships.
After all the hurt feelings and chaos of divorce, it can be tempting to jump into the excitement and good feelings of a new relationship. However, while dating may sound like a new start to you, your children are likely to have very different feelings about it. Taking the time to think through your actions and talking to your children about how they feel about you dating can have a profound impact on your children’s sense of stability and self-worth for the rest of their lives.
Are Your Kids Ready for You to Start Dating?
While you might feel like you’re ready to start dating again, it’s very likely your kids are not there yet. Kids often secretly ― or not so secretly ― hope their parents will get back together and either parent dating crushes that hope. Kids may also worry that a new girlfriend or boyfriend may replace them in their parents affection. These are just a few reasons why kids need more time to adjust to a parent’s dating than a parent might suspect.
It’s difficult for parents who are excited about a new romance to objectively judge their children’s readiness for that new relationship. Parents may lose perspective and try to make the transition too quickly. Kids need a great deal of their parents attention in the first year after a divorce therefore dating or introducing a new partner is best delayed until kids achieve a comfortable level of stability.
Following are some questions to ask yourself to determine if you and your kids are ready for you to start dating and potentially starting a new long-term relationship:
- Have you process your feelings around the divorce and toward your former spouse?
- Have you guided your children through their grief and the life changes that go with divorce?
- Has the family settled into a fairly permanent home and routine?
Kids want to know it is safe for them to discuss their feelings about their parents dating. They want reassurance that their parents will not desert them for another relationship. In some cases just saying, “I understand that you don’t want me to date right now so I’ll wait until you’re ready,” can go along way to making your kids feel more comfortable with the idea.
As you can see, parents dating brings up a host of complicated issues for children and this may be a good time to meet with a therapist. A therapist can also help you clearly answer the questions above and make sure you’re not just seeing things the way you want to but are also seeing your children’s feeling accurately and helping them process those feelings appropriately.
When a parent starts a new relationship, they are also making an important choice for their children that can impact their sense of stability for the rest of their lives. This is why it is crucial that parents realistically evaluate where they are emotionally and if necessary hold off on dating until their kids feel like life is stable.
To learn more about how divorce mediation can help your case, contact any of our Divorce Attorney Mediators or Certified Divorce Financial Analysts at CT Divorce Mediation Centers. Divorce and Family Mediation and Collaborative Law are all we do. We have offices in Madison, New Haven, Cheshire, West Hartford, Glastonbury, West Hartford, and Windsor, CT. To find out more information or to schedule a consultation with our divorce experts, call us at (860) 986-1141.
DISCLAIMER:This publication is not meant to constitute legal, accounting, financial, investment advisory, or other professional advice. If legal, financial, investment advisory or other professional assistance is required, the services of a competent professional person such as CT Divorce Mediation center, should be sought.