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As exciting as a new relationship can be, dating after a divorce can also cause trepidation when you have a teenage daughter. You don't want to cause her additional stress or hurt feelings, but you also need to move on with your life. Respecting your daughter's feelings and including her in making plans to meet your new partner can help make introductions go more smoothly.
Acknowledge Your Relationship
Be honest and direct with your daughter. Let her know that you are dating someone and ask her how she feels about it. If she isn't in favor of you dating, listen to how she feels, but don't let her feelings dictate your dating life. Address any concerns your daughter might have. For example, she might have been holding out hope that you and her father would reunite, and your dating forces her to face reality. Assure your daughter that your dating won't replace time that you spend with her, nor are you looking to replace her father. If your daughter is curious about the man you're dating, you might want to share details with her about him. For example, you might tell her what he looks like, what you like about him or what he does for a living. You might share a few details about your dates, such as where you're going or what you did.
Determine Long-Term Potential
Wait to introduce your daughter to your new significant other until you are certain your relationship has long term potential. Make sure that both you and your significant other are committed to the relationship and have your daughter's best interest at heart. It can be emotionally difficult for children to develop relationships with people who won't stay in their lives long and it could also affect how they view and develop relationships when they are older, says Shendl Tuchman, a psychologist and author of "Dating After Divorce: Introducing Your Children to a New Partner" on the website, GoodTherapy.org.
Include your daughter in making plans to meet your new partner. You want her to feel that she has some control over the situation. Pick a location where the emphasis will be on an activity, not on conversation, suggests Gary Neumann, a licensed mental health counselor and cited in "Dating After Divorce: What it Means for Kids" on the website, Family Education. For example, play miniature golf, go watch a sporting event or visit a museum. Don't be overly affectionate in front of your teenage daughter. Adolescents are at an age where they are beginning to come to grasp with the idea of sexuality, and can have difficulty with the idea that their parents are sexual beings, says Robert Stone, author of "Dating a Divorcee With Kids" on the website, PsychCentral.
Don't Rush the Relationship
At first, your daughter may be resistant to your new relationship, but be patient. Don't try to force the relationship. Generally, when a person is friendly, gives attention to someone and doesn't try to discipline, children will form an attachment to the new significant other as they continue to spend time together, says Tuchman. Rather than act like a parent, your significant other should treat your daughter as a friend, at least initially. Slowly increase the amount of time your child spends with your new significant other, yet continue to make one-on-one time with your child without your partner, says Marni Battista, founder of Dating with Dignity and author of "When (and How) to Introduce Your New Beau to Your Kids" on the Huffington Post website.
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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