When you are a parent, your kids come first. No matter what. If a child’s soccer game conflicts with your new love’s company picnic, you should be at the game. Don’t skip a concert performance for a night on the town.
One of the things your kids will be looking for when you start a new relationship is whether you still care about them. They are going to be jealous of the time you spend with the new man or woman thinking (perhaps rationally) that it takes time away from them.
That’s why it is so important to put your kids’ “big events” ahead of your new love’s.
Beyond specific events, you need to put your kids’ needs above the new person’s. That may make things less romantic, but it’s part of being a parent.
If you are a single parent who only sees your children on weekends, you need to make it very clear to your new partner that these visitation times are for the children and they are not to schedule things with you or that conflict with the kid’s time.
Finally, you should always consider your children’s health, emotional welfare, and safety when you make any decisions about your relationship. You’ll never forgive yourself if something bad happens because you didn’t put your children first.
But Don’t be a Martyr
Having said that your kids have to come first, you also should know that you shouldn’t be a martyr to them.
Don’t use your kids as an excuse to avoid intimacy.
If you are a martyr to your kids, you will sabotage any chance you have at finding true love.
The balancing act between putting your kids’ needs first and making space in your life for a new love is one of the hardest things for single parents who start dating to do.
Your New Love and Your Ex
One of the hard things about starting a new relationship is letting your ex know you are dating again. If he or she is still in pain from the divorce, letting them know that you have moved on may be painful.
But, as hard as it may be, you need to let your ex know that you are dating again and that someone special has entered your life.
You should also take care to not use your new love as a weapon against your ex. While it may be tempting to let your ex know that you’ve moved on, it’s unfair to use a date as a weapon. Your children will no doubt mention that you’re dating when they are with their other parent, and that’s fine. Don’t ask them to keep it a secret or they will feel like you are doing something wrong. Simply let things take their course, and answer their questions honestly.
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In many cases, both partners in a relationship have kids of their own. It’s the whole “Brady Bunch” scenario.
It is important for your children to be properly introduced to his or her children because it sets the tone for how the group will get along in the future.
While an adult can absorb bad behavior on your children’s part, a kid has a hard time.
You should also know that your kid is going to be stressed about meeting people who could become their siblings. There are a variety of ways that this stress is played out. Often, one child will start to bully another child.
While you may have some tolerance for bad behavior toward an adult figure that comes into the relationship because you naturally assume an adult can handle it, you should have zero tolerance for bad behavior toward another child.
You should also have zero tolerance for allowing your new love’s children to bully yours.
Remember, a new relationship is hard on the kids. Adequately preparing them emotionally for all of the new bonds that are being made is of paramount importance.
Don’t Let Your Kids Dominate Your Dates
Separate out your dating life. Some dates will be “family dates” where you include the kids. But, other dates will be “grown up dates” and the kids don’t come along.
Or do they?
Too often, a single parent spends a lot of their dating conversation talking about their kids. While this may seem natural because your kids are such an important part of your life, it can crowd out the important bonding between two people.
So, try to limit the talk about how “charming” or “dreadful” your kids are and focus on the other person. Talk about things and interests you have in common. Try to allow the other person to talk as well.
While you love your kids and they are the most important part of your life, your new relationship cannot be based solely on them. You have to have an “adult” component to the relationship as well.
Therefore, you shouldn’t bring your kids along – even in conversation only – on adult dates.
When Relationships Dissolve
You may have done everything right. You:
- developed a social life so the children wouldn’t notice when you started to date
- when you started to date, you kept the children in the dark until you were in a committed relationship
- prepared your children for the introduction to your new love well
- reassured your children that you love them every bit as much despite falling in love with another adult
- facilitated the development of the relationship between your children and your partner
Thus, your children have fallen in love with your partner much like you did.
But, then something went wrong in the relationship. You no longer see a future together and you want out.
How do you break it to the children?
First of all, be compassionate. Remember that they have already seen one relationship fall apart (yours with their other parent) and may see your break up as further indication that they can’t expect the adults in their lives to stick around. This is the worst case scenario.
Therefore, you have to be compassionate about the break up. If they want to occasionally see or phone your old love, facilitate that.
But you shouldn’t stay in a relationship “for the kids” either. That’s a bad reason to stay in a marriage and an even worse reason to stay in a dating relationship.
Change and loss are part of life, things everyone has to deal with. If a particular bond is really strong, perhaps there's a way for that adult and child to maintain a connection. But, don’t stay in a relationship that has run its course just because of that attachment.
Dating after a divorce is tough because the children need a strong adult presence in their life. Instead of having two parents in the home, they have two homes with one parent in each.
There are also challenges to actually dating when you have kids. You have to balance your romantic life with your family life.
Before you jump into any relationships, you need to think through what your plan of attack is. Make sure you have prepared your children for what’s coming next before the occasion arises.
Before you had kids, dating was much simpler. The demands on your time were simpler. The emotional demands were simpler as well.