You may dream that your kids fall in love with your boyfriend or girlfriend immediately. But, unless they are very small, they are probably going to resist him or her.
That’s because they see your new love replacing their other parent.
Be patient with your kids. This is hard for them.
With younger children (under 10), assure them that you are not replacing their other parent. Tell them that it is okay to love their mom or dad. Let them know that this new person will never take that place in their life.
Another issue with younger children is that they feel your new love is “stealing” their time. They won’t want to “share” you with someone else. Tell them “I love you as much as ever, but sometimes I'm not here when you want me to be. I like to spend time with my friends, just like you do.”
If your kids continue to object to your new love, you should listen to them. This doesn’t mean that they can nix your relationships. But, if he or she doesn’t listen to them, doesn’t pay attention to them, or makes them uncomfortable, you should listen. These may be signs that the relationship won’t work with your family.
Older children and teens are likely to rebel. They’ll test their limits by pushing back against your new love.
Handle this by giving them some control over their lives. While they shouldn’t control your dating, getting their input on things that they can have a say in – like whether they’d be more comfortable if your date joined you for dinner at the home or if you all went out together can facilitate their acceptance of your new love.
Ask your kids for a monthly “date” with just you and them. That will make them feel like they are still special to you. By phrasing this in terms they’ll identify with, you will allow yourself to grow closer to them. When you go out on your “date,” do things they want to do.
Remember that you are the parent though. Ultimately, you are the adult in the house. It’s great that you respect your child’s opinion on the matter, that you’re open about discussing the situation and that you’re trying to keep peace in the home. But, in the end, you are the adult and if you want to date someone and your teen doesn’t like it, that’s just too bad.
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Don’t Turn Your New Partner into a Parent Helper Right Away
Your new partner is a love interest. You should spend your initial months together in romantic ways. The most important thing you can do for your relationship during this time is to seal the bond between you.
If you ask him or her to help you in significant ways with the kids, you are imposing an obligation on them that they are not ready to take. Just as you shouldn’t ask your kids to start treating your love like a parent figure right away, you shouldn’t ask your partner to take on parenting duties.
They may offer to babysit or do minor child chores at first. You have to decide whether this hurts or helps your relationship. Remember, the relationship should come before any “assistance” with your kids.
Similarly, you have to factor in how your kids will view this “assistance” from your partner. You have to give them room to get to know the new person before he or she will be fully accepted by them.
Another note on this topic is that experts almost universally agree that you should not allow your new love to discipline your children at first. Your partner is a friend, not a parent to them. If you do ever allow your partner to parent in this way, it should only be after they have become an official step parent through marriage.
In short, your kids are not his or her responsibility until the relationship has been taken to a level where they are part of the “family” in whatever form that takes.
Be Consistent on Sex
One of the things you need to be clear about when you start to date when you have children is the messages you want to be sending your kids about sex.
Parents have many views about sex. For instance:
• No premarital sex
• Sex only in committed relationships
• Sex is for adults only
Whatever you are going to tell your kids about sex, you need to practice it yourself. It’s not enough to tell them to “do as I say not as I do.” Your children will pick up on any hiprocracy right away.
The next thing you need to do is decide on sleeping arrangements. Perhaps your love only sleeps over when the kids are on visitation with the other parent. Or, perhaps you make every night a slumber party. You need to figure out these things ahead of time so that a last minute hormonal decision doesn’t harm your relationship with your children.
Finally, if you have older kids, you need to think through how you are going to talk to them about sex in light of your new relationship. Intimate moments are private for a reason, so you shouldn’t let them pry. But you can also use your own life as a living “teachable moment” for them.