It happens all the time. There seems to be this natural tendency to introduce the kids to the new flame. You are excited about the new love in your life, and you expect your kids would be excited too, right? Wrong! Your kids have been through a very traumatic experience. They need you–all of you–now more then ever. Someone new in your life is often viewed by the kids as a threat to the time they have with you and your love for them. Also, the kids have a strong sense of loyalty toward their other parent. When you introduce your kids to someone you are dating, it creates an internal conflict within them. They are torn between being loyal to their other parent, and pleasing you by sharing in your excitement. Here are some tips for how to handle dating and your kids:
- It is best to shelter your kids completely from your dating life during the first year of your new relationship. Remember, after a divorce, kids are very sensitive to any changes, especially when it involves them (or you). The one thing that they wanted most to last forever: mom and dad being together, has been shattered. It is best not to introduce them to new people before you are sure the relationship will last.
- Go slow with bringing the new person into their life. Often, kids are anxious that a new person in your life, will mean less of you in theirs. Sadly, that is often the case. Single parents have very little free time as it is. When you start dating someone, much of your free time goes to that person instead of your kids. Focus on balance, and if it doubt, decide on spending the free time with the kids, not your date. Your kids will thank you.
- If you in the process of getting a divorce, consider putting the requirement that your ex-spouse introduce you to their new dating partner before introducing that person to the kids. This gives you the opportunity to size up the new person, voice any concerns to the ex, and prepare the kids. If you are already divorced, see if you can’t get your ex-spouse to agree to this. It is worth a shot.
- Be smart about who you choose to date. You are a single parent–not single. You have kids and you need to consider their needs ahead of yours. Make sure that the person you are dating is “kid-friendly”. This means they either have kids of their own, or they understand that they are at least second in line behind the kids. If they are giving you a hard time about your kids when you start dating, it will only get worse over time.
While much of this seems like common sense, it is much easy to say then do–especially in the heat of a new relationship. No matter how perfect Prince Charming or Cinderella might be, it is always best to be very cautious when introducing them into your kids’ lives.
Background info: I was a single parent for over seven years raising my three daughters. What I write about above comes from my own personal experience. Hopefully, you can benefit from my mistakes (and wisdom!).