They’ve gone through a divorce with you. You dating again could very well shock and awe them.
Understandably, telling your kids you are seeing new people is difficult. They could react in a variety of ways. At worst, they could be angry at you for attempting to “replace” their other parent, and at best, they could completely accept your choice to begin dating again.
Your children may not understand what it means when you tell them you are dating again.
Listed below are tips on how to explain dating to your children based on their age.
- Young Children (ages 1-5): At this time, children are not really able to comprehend what a “boyfriend” or a “girlfriend” is, and so it is best to refer to casual dates or evenings out with a steady partner as an outing with a “friend”.
- School-Age Children (ages 6-10): As your children get older, they can understand a bit more about your life and routines. They may have more questions about what you do when you leave the house, and so you should tell your children a few more details, such as where exactly you are going and who you will be with. You may want to remain ambiguous about the labels you choose to give your significant other, as children may not be able to distinguish between a casual attachment from a really serious one.
- Pre-Teens and Young Adults (ages 11 and older): Once your children reach their pre-teen years, they are able to better understand the terms of your divorce and the likelihood of you dating other people. Tell them you are going on dates. Though pre-teens may not have the emotional maturity to relate to every aspect of your divorce and your new life, they should accept your desire to find a new partner. As your children age, you should feel free to open up more about dating, new significant others and your plans to move on after the divorce.
An important point to remember is to wait to introduce your significant other to your children until the relationship is very serious. Your children may form an attachment to your new significant other, and so it is important to be sure the relationship is likely to last a long time before inviting someone new into their life.
Additionally, keep your children’s routines as close to normal as possible. Constantly changing their schedules because you have planned new dates or outings may isolate your children and breed resentment for the new people in your life who are causing these changes.
At the end of the day, you should practice openness with your children. While it makes sense to wait until you are in a serious relationship to introduce a new partner to your children, this new information should not be a huge surprise. Your children should be aware that you are seeing new people, and introducing them to the idea of you seeking a romantic attachment with another person will make the presence of a new partner less jarring. Hiding your new relationship will only lead to an angrier and less open response from your children the longer you wait.
As a divorce mediator, I have seen so many parents struggle to tell their children about their new relationship. The best advice I can offer is to be honest and patient. Your children may not accept your new partner at first, but it is best if you slowly allow your children to warm up to the presence of another adult in their lives.