How soon should you start dating after a divorce?
Most middle-aged children need time to adjust to their parents’ separation before their parents begin to develop new love interests. Waiting six months is a good guideline, but dating often happens sooner. Cierra Fisher, Licensed Therapist and Program Specialist, says, “The biggest thing to do as parents is to make sure that you are ready to date. Sometimes we feel pressured to get out and start dating even when we are not ready. Something to consider is that if you are not ready, then your children are definitely not ready.”
When you decide to start dating, you should talk about your new adult friends with your child. Let your child express their feelings and opinions on the subject.
Some other things that you can do to make this transition smoother for your children are:
1. You do not need to introduce your children to all of your dates.
Only introduce them to people with whom you have a serious relationship. Middle-aged children may be interested in the people you date but may develop an attachment to them before it’s appropriate. They may want you to marry this person soon in hopes of creating a healthy family unit. Cierra adds, “Dating with children shouldn’t be a revolving door. You don’t want new people constantly in and out of your children’s lives or it will create a fear of abandonment in children. So ensure that when you do introduce your child to someone new, it has already been established that it is something long-term.”
Be sure to explain to them that not all dates and friendships end in marriage. Also, discuss with your partner the best time for you to meet your child. Don’t pressure your partner to meet the child before they feel ready.
2. Prepare for your partner and child to meet for the first time.
Tell your child about this person and explain why you like them. (Are they smart? Are they funny?) Then ask, “I was hoping to see John, do you want him to come over for dinner, or should the three of us go to his place?” Also, tell your partner about your children. Describe what the youngsters like, their favorite sports, their hobbies, what they like about school, and any other information that you think will help your partner get closer to them.
Cierra says, “Talk to your children about it. Talk to them about how it is a new norm and that you will start dating. Explain to them what they can expect now that things are changing.”
3. Set the boundaries:
They are not just your children; your ex has the same right on them as you do. It is important to set boundaries that both you and your ex see fit. Cierra explains, “Make sure you are efficiently communicating about it with the other parent, especially if you are co-parenting. Let them know you are ready to date and ask them about their boundaries.”
She continues by saying, “Established boundaries are so important with your ex, your children, and yourself. Know your boundaries as well and how long you want to wait before introducing someone to your children so you are prepared for that conversation when the time comes.”
4. Help your child deal with negative emotions.
Children sometimes see their parents’ new love interests as a threat to their illusions that their parents will reunite one day. Once your new relationship gets serious enough that you decide to introduce your partner to your children, you’ll also have to deal with your child’s unrealistic thoughts. You may say something like, “Dad and I got divorced. We’re really not getting back together again.”
5. Be discreet when it comes to intimate relationships with your partner.
Children discover the world through examples, especially from their parents. Remember that your child learns intimacy as you develop a relationship with your lover. Open, age-appropriate communication about sexual relationships with your children can allow them to experience new levels of awareness of adult behavior.
As school-age children are exposed to these new relationships, be clear about their feelings for the new friends, their desire to be close, and the differences between adult relationships and those between children and adolescents. Encourage them to express their feelings, whether good or bad and encourage them to ask questions about your new friend and their relationship with you.