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I'm a divorced mom who wants to start dating again. When do I introduce the kids to men I meet? How to date without hurting the kids?

I have custody of my two children, ages 10 and 8. It's been a few years since I got divorced, and the kids are doing well (their dad still a part of their lives, though not as involved as me). I'm now ready to start dating again and not sure how to navigate the dating scene as a mom.

When do I introduce the kids to men I date? After 3 dates? 3 months? 6 months? After me & new boyfriend decide we're ready to tell the kids? Or should I shield the kids entirely from meeting any of the guys until the relationships progress to being serious? That seems more risky, and potentially unfair to the kids -- what if he and the kids don't hit it off, and we're already so far down the path of commitment? What if things don't work out with me and the guy: will the kids be disappointed and hurt? Will my dating be harmful to them?

I want to do what's best for my kids, but I also don't want to wait until they're 18 (or out of the house) before I start dating again. Help! What can I do to best manage dating as a divorced mom?
In Topics: Parenting / Our Family, Motherhood, Single parent families
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Dr.Susan
Apr 16, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

First, I want to commend you on being so thoughtful about keeping your children's best interests in mind as you step into this new part of your life. This is incredibly important and by doing so, you are taking the first and most important step towards NOT emotionally harming them.

When divorced parents begin dating, it ususally stirs up all sorts of emotions for kids including excitement, resentment, anxiety, anger and jealousy. For these reasons, the way you expose your kids to your dating is important--to minimize the roller coaster of emotions.

Here are my suggestions for ensuring that things go as smoothly as possible:

1. It's not necessary--and I wouldn't recommend--telling your kids every time you go on a date. You can tell them you're going out with friends. If you alert them every time, they will become anxious about the outcome each time and that roller coaster will begin, even if it's not necessary.

2. When you do begin dating someone regularly--or dating frequently enough that it is noticeable to them, or too difficult to hide, explain to them that you have begun dating. Tell them that the people you date will not in any way replace your time with them or feelings for them. Reinforce this as often as possible. This isn't the time to introduce them to your dates--even if they ask.

3. Make sure that anyone you date knows from the beginning that you have kids and that they are a priority in your life. Pay attention to their response to this. If your gut reaction tells you they are not the 'kid type', don't ignore this. Too many relationships between parents and kids have become strained because parents have chosen new partners that don't understand the importance of the parent-child relationship.

4. Introduce your child to someone only when you believe it is a serious relationship--one that could become permanent. Yes, this is risky. But the truth is, your child doesn't see things the same way as you do. Your child may bond immediately with someone you've only dated three times and then experience a loss when the relationship doesn't work out. This is why it is important to introduce your child to as few people as possible: the more opportunities for loss, the more potentially damaging it could be.

5. Make the introduction very low-keyed:going to the movies, the beach or somewhere that doesn't require a great deal of intense face to face time at first. Do not include his children (if he has them). Save this for much further down the road.

6. After the introduction, ask your kids how they felt about it and listen to them. Pay attention to how they feel. Attend to how your new partner treats your kids. Set boundaries, don't ask your partner to discipline your kids--his role is to be a friend, nothing more.

By setting up the situation well and working in your children's best interest, you will definitely have success dating without hurting your kids! Good wishes and great parenting!

Dr. Susan Bartell
JustAsk Expert
www.drsusanbartell.com
Twitter @drsusanbartell
NEW book! "The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask"

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Additional Answers (1)

chamberlain.jeff
chamberlain... writes:
I am a divorced father of a 7-yr. old child. I had a similar situation after my divorce where I was unsure about how to tell my son that i had started to see other people. I elected to be completely up front and honest with my son. I introduced my girlfriend (now my wife) and him soon after we started to date; I think it was after the third date or so; my son was 5 at the time. Now, my son is an extremely bright boy, and I had already talked to him about the divorce, and that mommy and daddy still loved him, they just couldn't live together anymore. He was fine with that. Soon after I started dating my, now wife, I introduced them to each other and explained to him that we were very good friends, and that he would be seeing a lot of her from now on. As time passed, the two of them continued to develop a relationship so, when it came time that she and I got married, my son was very excited about having a step-mommy. I have never required to have my son call my wife mommy, and to this day he still calls her by her first name, which is fine. He knows that his mommy will always be his mommy, and that my wife is not trying to take her place. We explained to him that he is a very special boy, because he now has three parents that love him dearly.

The best advice I can give you is to be up front and honest with your children. If you try to sneak around behind their backs, who's to say that they won't do the same thing to you when they start dating. They may even start believing that, if you won't confide in them, why should they confide in you? Just make sure that they understand that you are not looking for someone to replace their father; as this can cause resentment, toward you or your new boyfriend, by the children. After introducing them, let them get to know your new boyfriend by including your children in some of the activities that you do such as mini-golf, seeing a movie, or just going to the beach. There will be plenty of time for you two to spend alone, but include the children some of the time. Otherwise, your children may feel that he is trying to take you away from them. As things start to get more serious between you and your boyfriend, make sure you talk to your children about how they feel about the situation, and truly listen to their concerns. If you do not address their concerns, they may start to believe that you do not value them as much as before the boyfriend.

Now, I am no expert; not by far. I am just a father who successfully made the transition from single dad to remarried dad, and still have the love and respect of my son. I strongly believe that I would not have either one if I had not remained completely hoonest and up-front with him. I have taught him all his life to always tell the truth and be honest. What message would it have sent him if I had not been honest to him about my relationship? I hope that my ramblings have helped you to decide to move forward with your search for new companionship. Nobody should ever have to put their life on hold, for fear of how someone else will react; even if that someone is a family member. If I can help you any further, please do not hesitate to ask.
> 60 days ago

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