It can be difficult to get back into dating after a divorce, especially if you have teenage children. Your kids have had a major disruption in their lives, as have you. Although you may feel ready for a new relationship or just some adult company, your teenagers may find this difficult to deal with. However, if you handle the situation sensitively and carefully, with good communication and honesty, there is no reason why you should not get back to dating without upsetting your children.
Approach the situation as you would any other change in their lives, such as moving to a new house or starting a new job, suggests Jan Faull, M.Ed. Let them know that you are thinking of dating again so that it does not come as a huge surprise. Be prepared to answer questions and listen to their views. With younger teens, state it in a matter of fact way -- "I'm going on a date on Saturday. How do you feel about me dating again?" If you have older teens you can go into a bit more detail. Tell them why you feel it’s the right time for you to date again, for example, you could say, "It's been (however many) years since your dad and I divorced, and I think it's time that I started dating again." Explain why it’s important for you to do it. You could tell younger teens that, although you enjoy and appreciate their company, sometimes, like them, you need friends of your own age. Older teens will have more of an idea about dating, and you can relate your own worries and aspirations for dating to their own.
Explain where you are going, what you will be doing, when you will be home and who you are going with. Plan in advance that someone will be there to take care of them if they are young teens and you are going to be out for a while, and make sure it is someone they know well and enjoy being with. If your kids are very worried, or if you are leaving older teens by themselves, reassure them that you can be contacted – as well as having your mobile number, leave them the name and number of the place you are going. Do stress that this is for real emergencies though. Come home when you say you will, as this helps kids feel secure -- no matter how old they are.
Be prepared for your teenagers to be resentful. Older children, like their younger siblings, will still need reassurance that you love them and that no one will take their place. Be sure they understand that you are not abandoning them and that they are the most important thing in your life. If you do become involved in a relationship that becomes serious, continue to reassure your children that you have enough love for everyone, and caring for your new partner does not mean that you love them any less.
Tell your teenagers that you will still have time for them and that you will all still do the things that you have always done together. Although, by this age, your children will probably be spending less time with you and more with their peers, they still need to have quality one-on-one time with you. Don't cancel arrangements you have made with your children in order to go on a date or spend time with a new partner. Be careful when scheduling dates so they don’t interfere with the things that are important to your teenagers – don’t miss football games or school events, for example. This way your children will see that they can trust you and that they are important to you; your responsibility to your children comes first.
- Child and Family Mental Health: Parents and Dating: Talking to Your Children About Parent Dating Relationships
- Ladies' Home Journal: Dating After Divorce: Explaining It to the Kids
- New York Life: Dating Again as a Parent
- The Child Center and Adult Services Inc.: Helping Children When Parents Separate
- Alabama Cooperative Extension System: Principles of Parenting
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