For many newly divorced, single parents, dating can be literally mortifying! Some may have not even dated in years because they were married. Some don’t know how to date. Some don’t have times to date. Not only is finding enough time to date an issue, but introducing your new mate to your child(ren) can be a bigger issue. How and when do I introduce my children are common questions that divorced/single parents have.
When my ex and I decided to go our separate ways I was admittedly fearful of dating. My ex and I were together for nearly 6 years; which means I hadn’t dated in that long. Not to mention that I was finishing up my bachelor’s degree, working, my father was terminally ill and I was raising a little boy, alone (my ex is an overseas basketball player). So as you can imagine, dating was literally the furthest thing from my mind. Sure I enjoyed nice dinners from time to time with gentlemen, but I was not interested in seriously dating anyone. Additionally, I decided that I wasn’t going to bring multiple men in and out of my son’s life so I told myself that I wasn’t going to introduce anyone to my son unless it was serious. However, after my first ‘serious’ (I decided to give dating a try after I obtained my degree) relationship didn’t work out I had a new realization. I realized that not every level of dating necessitated including my son. As such, I concluded that seriously dating didn’t mean that we spent a lot of time together, we were enamored with each other or that we were even exclusive. Instead, seriously dating meant that we were not only committed, but talking about our future together; meaning marriage, parenting, children, etc. After that, I only had one other man that I was dating around my son and I married him.
Once you’ve decided that you are in a serious committed relationship, you’ll want to have meaningful dialogue about your new mate with your children. Although it’s important to affirm your unconditional love and commitment to your children, you don’t need their approval to involve your serious beau or belle in their life. Remember, you’re just initiating a light-hearted conversation about it. If you make it too serious, then they’ll take it too seriously and begin to have fear of how things will change once the new beau or belle enters the family.
In my case, I just asked my son, who was 4 at the time, if he would like to meet mommy’s new friend. I told him that we would all do something really fun together and get to know each other better. I allowed him to choose the activity and emphasized that we would all just enjoy getting to know each other. He asked some general questions such as; is he nice and will he play with me? Overall, he didn’t seem hesitant about meeting him and never questioned my love for him. That being said, I realize that this scenario will play out a little differently with older children. As such, you will likely have to have more meaningful dialogue with them. I would begin by emphasizing your love and support of your children individually and then your family as a whole. Then ask the children questions about what they would like for your family. What are they looking for in someone that you might bring into the family? This will help them feel included in your relationship that is important to you. It helps them feel less like an outsider in your new life.
Dating after divorce can be scary, but it is possible to find love a second time around. You just have to remember that accepting parent dating relationships is sometimes a slow process for children. But, if you carefully order your steps, they will begin to see that including another person in your family is about expanding your family; not dividing it.