Your life has begun to open up and you have found new relationships and possibilities. But how do you share that joy with your kids? When people have new partners in their lives post divorce, this is one of the many hurdles that come with co-parenting. Ideally, exes should discuss how to handle dating and discussing it with their children. If both parents agree then the children have more consistency in the parenting. We know this isn't always possible. Some people decide to wait until their children are out of the house. Others choose to move on before that. However, here are some things to consider.
- You may want to wait until it is serious. Adults have separate lives from their children. They go to work or have friends that their kids don't know about. Usually people introduce their children to people that are important to the child. Some people wait until the relationship has a solid level of commitment so as not to bring their children too deeply into their personal lives. You can choose to take the approach that it is none of your child's business unless it affects the child. However, if you want to date, you may want to share that with your children so they at least know your goals and visions for the future. Surprising them with a serious relationship when there has been no discussion of moving on can be just as detrimental as introducing them to every single person you date.
-Use the right language. If you are going to introduce your child to someone, be honest. Friend and boyfriend are not the same thing. Don't lie to your kids. That will only increase their anxiety and confusion about the changes going on in the family.
-Don't put your kids in the middle. Don't ask your kids to not tell your ex or have them be the messenger either. They don't need that kind of responsibility. If you want your ex to know, you need to tell them.
-Explain what this means for your relationship with them. Ultimately, your kids care about what will happen to them if you fall in love with someone else. Be clear about your priorities and expectations about bringing your new partner into the family. Assure your children of your love for them, not just in words but in spending time with them and showing them your love.
-Don't be reactive. Be ready for a range of emotions. Your child might hate the idea of you dating or might be ok with it. No matter what, that is their feelings and it is normal to have a reaction. With time, their reaction will change. And if it doesn't and you have more difficulty with this than you know what to do with, you can get help. There are counselors that specialize in step family development. Keep in mind that while they may not like it, it does not mean you have to call off the relationship. You get to explain the expectations. "We will all be going out to dinner tonight. Please be polite." That is reasonable and part of being a parent - helping children cope and deal with hard stuff in life.
Moving on is exciting and can be tough. We help couples wanting to move on. Let us know if we can be of help to you.