Considerations for Dating Post Divorce
Valentine’s day is upon us. This is a time of the year where we celebrate romance, love, and relationships. Single parents are not immune to this desire to find someone “beloved” to share their lives with. When looking for the “love of your life” post divorce, it is helpful to remember the following six items when introducing your children to a significant other(s).
1. Do not involve your children in the online dating activities. Do not have them take pictures of you for your online profile, write your online profile, or have them assist you in responding to “matches”. A child should never be placed in the position of being a confidant for their parent. Some children of divorce want to “parent” the adult of the family so asking them to assist in the pursuit of a date further blurs boundaries for them.
2. Protect your children from the dating process. Do not introduce your children to all of your dates or ask them to identify “favorites”. It’s only when you believe that a relationship may be going somewhere that you should introduce this new individual to your children. Children of divorce are sensitive to the grieving process of the loss of significant relationships. Be thoughtful when choosing who meets your kids.
3. Honor that gut feeling to end the relationship. If your significant other is a little too interested in your children and not so much in you, if he or she gets too serious too fast, bad mouths a former spouse, or tries to control you or your kids, cut your losses quickly. These are all red flags in relationships.
4. Once you find a suitable individual, refrain from “overselling” the virtues of this person to your children. Some kids feel jealous when parents are pontificating on about “how great” this person is or how successful his/her children are. Reassure your children that they will remain a priority even though you are dating. Be sure you walk your talk and do not reduce family time so that you can increase your dating experiences.
5. Keep the PDA (public displays of affection) G rated initially. Although it is healthy for children to see affection between adults, children might feel uncomfortable with more than that until they acclimatize to the relationship. Be sure you are not acting overtly sexual in front of your kids. Teenagers are especially dismayed when they are confronted with parents’ pubescent online behaviors on social media, through texting, or by email. Kids take their relationship cues from parents; avoid any behavior that might elicit a “get a room” response from a teenager. Avoid any behavior that you would not want your parents doing in front of you or your teenager doing with his/her significant other.
6. Do not rush new relationships. Your children may not like this individual or his/her children. Sometimes significant others may be viewed as interlopers. Many kids are wary and need time and space to make their own observations and judgments. Additionally, your children might be protective of you and may not necessarily want a new person around. As my grandmother always said, patience is a virtue.