Last week I talked about dating after a divorce when kids are not involved. However, dating after divorce when you have kids is a bit different. You are now not only in the position of bringing someone new into your life, but also into the lives of your children. Just as much as you need to care for your heart, mind and body, you need to do so for your kids as well.
Are You Emotionally Ready to Date Again?
I can’t stress enough how important it is for you to prepare for entering the dating scene after a divorce. Consider whether you are emotionally ready dating; confident to be connecting or even rejected while dating; know what you want from dating; and have supportive friends and family. Now, consider these same things for your children – set them up for success!
Don’t Hide That Your Dating
Kids are smart! So it’s best not to keep your dating a secret. Talk to them, let them know what your plan is, how you’re taking care of yourself and what you are looking for through dating. Talk to your kids about what they think about you dating and what their input is. Maybe your kids will have some expectations and desires for the potential person you will date. Find out what these are and why these inputs are important to them.
Introductions…when should that happen? First off, it’s probably a safe assumption the divorce was not only a loss for you, but for the kids. Their lives were turned upside down and was most likely a painful process for them in various ways. So be diligent with preventing the re-experience of loss. If you’re just dating around, have fun and date around, but leave the kids out of it. Don’t introduce your children to everybody you date.
There is wisdom in holding off with introductions until you’ve established clear expectations, boundaries and understanding within your dating relationship about the role your kids will play and how the person you’re dating fits there. I highly recommend not introducing your kids to your dates unless you have established a deep, connected relationship with the idea and plan of a future with a boy/girlfriend. The people you’re dating should never force you or push you for introductions if you are not ready. Listen to your gut and put your needs (and your children’s needs) first.
The parenting roles have shifted in your life, and the parenting you shared with your ex-spouse has most likely changed, too. Because your children are reliant on you your most important role is as a parent. Discipline/consequences should come from you and not by a non-parent. This could change further down the line with a new marriage, but until then, you are a single parent. The partner you’re dating gets to be a friend to the kids and in essence they are also dating them – the kids get to be wooed too! Play dates, fun dates and little gifts are encouraged. After the first meeting, talk to your kids in an age appropriate way and get their input and feeling about the person they just met. Long-term, keep the communication going with the kids, this is their life too and encourage them to participate in the building of their dual family.
Tristan Beymer is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and marriage and family counselor at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. She specializes in helping couples rebuild their relationship to be strong, healthy and passionate. She also works with individuals to overcome difficulties related to trauma and addictions.