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The Effects of Dating on Children After Divorce

by Stacey Elkins

Your heart has healed, and you’re ready to give love another shot. You’re aware that your decision to date may impact your children and cause problems; however, “It is certainly possible to start new relationships and help your children make the adjustments to the changes,” says Shendi Tuchman, a therapist in San Ramon, California. Taking steps to reduce problematic responses, resistance and stress will help to minimize the effect on your children.

Waiting Period

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that you wait at least six months following your separation before dating. This is just a guideline, though. No child will respond the same way. You know your children and are best equipped to know how to handle the situation. “Take some time to think through the needs of your children,” suggests Tuchman.

Communication

Be honest with your children about dating. Your children’s ages will determine how you should communicate with them. “When talking with young children, describe the person you are seeing as a friend,” suggests Jean McBride, a licensed marriage and family therapist in northern Colorado. School-age children can handle more information. For example, you might tell them that you are going to a movie with a person of the opposite sex. McBride encourages being open with children over the age of 11 and telling them that you are going on a date. Keep the lines of communication open. Ask your children how they feel, and give them the opportunity to ask questions.

Considerations

Children often fantasize that their parents will reunite. Dating indicates that you are moving on. Your children may feel hurt, anxious and angry. They may resist the idea of you dating. They may also feel threatened and worry that you will have less time for them. “Oftentimes, children will adapt to new situations more easily if they feel comfortable and reassured,” notes the Parenting Assistance Line at the University of Alabama. For example, if your children are fearful that dating will take time away from them, set aside special alone time for them. Reassure your children that they come first and their daily routine will remain consistent. If possible, plan your dates when your children are with their other parent.

Introductions

According to McBride, “Most professionals agree that parents should keep their dating relationships private and away from children until the relationship is serious.” Only introduce your children to the dates who have long-term potential. Introducing them to someone who doesn’t stick around can be hurtful, especially if attachments are established. Before introducing your children to your significant other, prepare them for the meeting. Tell them about your partner, and encourage them to help plan the introduction. Be patient. It will take time for your children and partner to develop a relationship. Do not be overly affectionate in front of your children.

About the Author

Stacey Elkins is a writer based in Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a Masters in social work from the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she specialized in mental health.

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