Being single again can be awkward, especially if you haven’t been single since before online dating sites like Zoosk, Match.com, OurTime, and eHarmony forever changed the dating scene. When you are divorced with kids, dating can be even more difficult.
This is why a lot of divorced parents decide to stay single – they may have little time to date, or they may want to spend their free time with their kids, or they may be afraid their children (especially teenagers) will never accept a new romantic relationship.
If you feel like your divorced parent status means you should stay single until your children turn 18 and head off to college, that doesn’t have to be the case. You don’t have to stay single until you become an empty nester. In fact, if you want a new companion, it can actually benefit you, your children, and your family life if you find the right person.
Taking it Slow is Key
If your children are under the age of five, introducing them to a new partner may not be that difficult, especially if you were their primary caregiver and the other parent was gone working a lot. But the older children get, and the more attached they are to your former spouse, the more you need to ease them into it.
The key is to take your time introducing them to a new partner; you don’t want to rush it or it can backfire. Understandably, children of divorce usually need time before they can accept someone new. If the child is heartbroken about the divorce or if they are attached to the other parent, they may be hoping that you’ll both change your minds and get back together – this is normal.
The first thing you want to do is not introduce your child to someone new while your divorce is pending or immediately after the divorce is final. If you choose to date during this time, be discreet and don’t go out on dates when it’s your turn to have your child. Instead, only date when your child is with the other parent.
Using a Progressive Approach
Expect it to take time for your children to accept a new partner. So, don’t force your children to meet him or her if they are not ready, and don’t force that person on your other family members if you’ve only been divorced for a short time and your children’s emotions are still raw. Keep everything slow and gradual, especially as you date. Take your time to get to know your dates and don’t jump into a new relationship too soon. If you find a “keeper” sooner than expected, explain your situation and get to know the person before you trust them around your children.
Ask questions about this person, such as do they have a criminal record? Have they ever been convicted of domestic violence? Do they have a substance abuse problem? Have they been married before? Do they have children too? How do they manage money? Does this person share the same views about money, politics, religion, parenting, and socializing? Do they have a good work ethic? Get to know them, especially before you let them be around your children.
These questions may seem a little extreme, but when you have kids, it’s all about quality over quantity. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to do a little investigative work before dating someone to make sure they are who they say they are.
Good sites to look at are LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. It’s also wise to do your own Google search. You never know, a little research can uncover that the person is actually married or doesn’t have the job that they say they have – it happens all the time!
Eventually, you’ll meet someone nice who understands your divorce and your family’s needs. At that point, you can introduce them to your kids and hope the relationship lasts, but there is no guarantee. However, you’ll never know if you don’t try.
Don’t Expect a Substitute
Unless your spouse is emotionally or physically absent as a parent or abusive, your child is probably attached to him or her. What does this mean? It means you may never find a substitute for the other parent. It’s pointless to fall in love again and expect your new spouse to replace your child’s biological mother or father.
In your child’s eyes, they’ll never have a “new Dad” or a “new Mom” because no one will ever replace their real mother or father. However, if you decide to let your new partner move in with you, you should inform your children ahead of time.
Success depends on using a slow and progressive approach. Have your children meet your new boyfriend or girlfriend first in a casual setting. Allow them to gradually get to know each other as time passes. A good move is to invite your new partner to the beach, a family dinner out, or another recreational and “fun” family activity. If your children can have fun with your new partner and enjoy their company, they’re more likely to accept them into the family rather than seeing them as a replacement for Mom or Dad.
As far as displays of affection, showering your new partner with a lot of hugs and kisses can make your children uncomfortable at first. It can even make it hard for them to accept him or her at all. It may be wise to explain the delicate situation to your partner and to agree on keeping the displays of affection around the kids at a minimum until the children warm up to them. Not only that, but kids usually find adults kissing disgusting, so they will appreciate the courtesy.
If you’re looking for a Los Angeles divorce attorney, contact Claery & Hammond, LLP for help.