How do you start dating AND have the kids accept it – Written by Carol Ferguson

he one thing you want to do is early in the process, you want to somewhat not involve the kids overly but not hiding that you’re dating.  It’s not necessarily a healthy thing because the kids know anyway.

So letting them know that mom deserves to have a life.  It’s really healthy role modeling.  A lot of women hit a point where it’s difficult for them to feel like they deserve to go be with someone else.  The ultimate fear is this could raise the discussion they don’t want to hear from their kids of saying, “But why aren’t you with dad?  I wish you were back with him.”  And the fear of avoiding that conversation can mean not declaring, “I’m single and I’m your mom but I have the right to be happy.”

So that emotional moment has to happen at some point, and generally things get much healthier once that declaration has been made and that discussion has been had.

Of course the age of the child plays into that greatly.  The older they are, the better that can be discussed.  Sometimes if they’re into their teens too far and the rebellion thing is happening, it can actually become counterproductive to try to share feelings.  And they can be manipulative as explained in this article “A Divorced  Child Who Manipulates”.

Generally speaking, you want to be very sure that you’re at a place where you feel deserving of having romance and you don’t feel guilty.  You don’t have to hide it from your kids because you’re not responsible for the fact that the relationship didn’t work out.  It’s not all of your fault.

So once you get to that point, it’s also working with your new partner.  It is helpful to introduce your new partner in gradual stages when the decision comes to allow that man into your life.

It begins by them becoming aware of him picking you up at the door.  So the door opens.  He doesn’t come in and linger because there’s that feeling of threat.  Who is this strange man?  Is he going to come in and change everything?  Is he going to make this his territory?  All of these instinctive things.

So just having him be there at the door to pick you up and they see him and he’s friendly and warm but doesn’t intrude initially.  Then you gradually can increase that to where he comes into the lobby and maybe interacts a little casually with them.

The other thing too is, depending on the part of your journey, how long you want to heal before you feel ready to really get out there with men again.  If it’s a long period of several years, it’s beginning to make sure that they don’t get too used to having mom to themselves.  They don’t get too used to the idea that another man is not entering this picture.

If that persists for too long, then it becomes a mindset that now must be deconstructed and overcome before they will allow something new and accept it.  So almost sprinkling in along the way, saying, “I know right now mommy is really working on herself and she may not date for a little while but there will be another guy at some point and there will be love in my life again.”

So they’re already mentally preparing for that sort of thing.  Then there’s less resistance to overcome.

Here is an example of how to introduce your new partner when the kids have had you all to themselves for a long time.

You need to literally show them that that’s they’re not going to lose you.  So setting a date where he picks you up let’s say 7 o’clock, 7:30 and you go on the date.  You tell them, “I’m going to be home by” – or maybe you do it earlier depending on their age, you may have to really do 6:30.  So you say, “I will be home by 8:30, 9 o’clock and then we’re going to make popcorn and watch a movie until you go to bed or we will watch a funny show.”

Then it’s making sure that he brings you back on time and you keep that commitment to being there for them that same night that they’ve now shared you with him and then enjoyed being back with you at the end.  You’ve gotten home and you’ve tucked them in.  You’ve read to them.

So that early fear when he first comes around is very much, “I’m going to be abandoned.”  So just showing them you can have him there and you will still make sure you balance and you’re there for them the same day.  Not necessarily the next night because that’s just perceived as, “Oh, she feels bad and now she’s making up for it.”

So it’s not the same thing.  So that kind of showing them that he can coexist with them is very helpful to reassure them.

Sometimes your new partner will have children of their own.  Eventually you may do something out of the home together.  You might say, “Hey, Jim’s kids and my kids – you guys are all interested in going to Disneyland or going to see this movie so we thought we might all go to that.”  This gives everyone a chance to feel one another out.

But really respecting one another as partners and making sure that he’s on the same page in terms of parenting as well.  Not overstepping those bounds really, because one of the other things that can go wrong, unfortunately, is when a woman will allow a man into her life, and into her heart but refuse to allow him to parent the children.  So she will say, “You’re not really their dad and I don’t want push-back from them.  I don’t want them to get upset.”

So in a way, you can emasculate your new man and kind of leave him powerless in a household, which almost never works out well.  They begin to realize that they have some control over you.  They can sort of get mom to do what they want a little bit.  Like if they don’t want him coming over today, they have some leverage.

It’s very dangerous if you start to go down that path and it’s very important to really not be afraid of your kids.  Don’t be afraid of hearing their true emotions like “Yes, I am upset dad is gone.”  “Yeah, I would like to understand why you’re not together.”  Those discussions have to happen before you can really let a man in and have your kids accept him.

You must understand that it is ok for them to be upset about it at first but you will do it anyway because you are comfortable with yourself and what you want to do with your life.  You don’t want to pass up an opportunity that might be good for you because your child may be a little bit scared about it.

That’s healthy boundary setting as a parent.  The parents do the parenting and don’t let the children parent upwards and decide what’s OK for you and what isn’t.

Once you have a new partner in your life, and that of your kids, it’s very important that if you disagree on the parenting, you do it in private.  It shouldn’t happen in front of the kids, you should back one another up in that sense. Then talk it out afterwards.

Need more tools for dating after divorce?  Try my free Love After  Divorce Toolkit!

by Carol Ferguson