The American Psychological Association notes that some of the challenges facing single-parent families arise from parents dating and forming new relationships with other adults. If you're dating, or if you're considering dating again, you might be wondering how your new romances might affect the emotional well-being of your children. To make a bumpy ride smoother, it's important to discuss and accept all of your child's feelings about your new relationship.
Awkwardness and Discomfort
Single parent dating can cause some uncomfortable situations for children. Your little one might feel uneasy with displays of affection between you and your new friend. These feelings can intensify if your friend begins spending the night at your home. Consider saving such activities for times when your child is not present with you and your friend. Your child might also feel awkward or resentful interacting with a non-parent adult who begins acting as a parent, especially if your new friend attempts to discipline your child or begins offering your child unsolicited advice. If you notice that your friend is beginning to assume the role of a parent and it's distressing your child, have a talk with your friend. Explain that it might be too early to take on this role.
Sadness and Worry
It can be difficult for some children to accept that their parents won't get back together again someday. Single parent dating effectively dashes a child's hopes of parental reunion, which can sadden him deeply. Let your little one know that these feelings are perfectly normal and okay. Reassure him that you still love him and that he won't always feel this way. According to Stop Child Abuse Now, a child might also think that a new significant other will be replacing his biological parent permanently. The idea of severing contact with a beloved mother or father is distressing for a child. To soothe your child's worries, reassure him that your significant other will be an addition to the family, not a replacement, and that your child will always have a strong relationship with both of his parents.
Jealousy and Insecurity
Seeing you date can make your child jealous of your new companion. Your little one might think that he is going to be replaced by this new person -- that you will eventually love the newcomer more than him. He may also see your dating as an act of betrayal towards both him and his other parent, according to licensed psychotherapist David S. Wilde. Jealousy can manifest itself in behavior that is unusual in your little one, such as excessive attention-seeking when your significant other is around or constantly interrupting conversations between the two of you. Be patient with your child; keep demonstrating how much you love him, maintain interest in his schoolwork and hobbies, and celebrate his successes, no matter how big or small.
Dating someone can leave your child confused about where his sense of loyalty should lie, notes the University of New Hampshire. For example, if a son begins to like and get attached to his mother's new boyfriend, he may feel that he is somehow being disloyal to his biological father. On the other hand, if he is mean or rude to the new boyfriend, he might think that he is maintaining his loyalty to his father, but he will also be hurting and distressing his mother at the same time. To help your child sort through his emotions, encourage him to talk about them with you.
It's possible that your child will be excited to meet your new beau. Single parent dating may encourage children to fantasize about having a new mom or dad. These fantasies can lead a little one to form a quick attachment to a new friend. While this might seem like a happy occurrence at first, keep in mind that your child will be unhappy if your relationship with your significant other ends, forcing him to endure the loss of someone with whom he had formed a strong bond.
- University of New Hampshire: Single Parenting: Dating Issues When You Have Children
- Stop Child Abuse Now: When Parents Date
- David S. Wilde: My 14-Year-Old Son Is Out-Of-Control and Doesn’t Want Me Dating
- American Psychological Association: Single Parenting and Today's Family
- Divorcehelpforparents.com: Dating After Divorce
- eHarmony.com: The Parent Trap: Dating, Your Kids and Feeling Guilty
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