Tips for Telling Your Child You are Dating
5 Tips for Dating Parents
Dear April Masini,
I’ve been single for about three years and I’m ready to get out there again. My question is simple, how do I tell my children I’m dating? Do you have any advice on what to say, how to say it and what reactions to expect?"
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Do Tell,
First off, it does not have to be a big deal! Dating after divorce doesn't have to be any trickier than any other transition in your life, and people have to let go of the taboo that divorced families are "broken." They’re not.
Don’t send your child the message that dating is an aberration. Dating and coupling are a natural part of life. Make sure you keep that message in the forefront of your parenting – and your own thinking as well!
Tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth – just not all at once! Most American therapists and courts recommend keeping the child out of the middle as a rule. However, the reality is that older children, ages six and up, have more insight and intuitiveness about what is happening than most therapists and courts give them credit for. Keeping them out of the middle often means keeping them out of the loop and many kids start not trusting their parents to tell them the truth this way.
A better approach is to be honest without being foolhardy -- in other words, don't confuse your child with your friend. Just because you're excited about a new boyfriend or girlfriend, doesn't mean it's time to tell your child all your hopes and dreams.
Children are attached to parents more than parents often realize, and they will want what you want, and if you don't get it, they'll go through the crush of a failed romance that you do -- if you involve them in a front row seat to the relationship.
Instead, you can feel free to tell your child that you are going on a grown up date with a nice man or woman that you met. Explain that you're going to have dinner or go to a movie with your new friend, and you're looking forward to having a good time. Give the child an idea of what time you'll be back, and if the child has separation anxiety, give them a call from your date to briefly say "Hi, just wanted to tell you I'm having a great time, and I'll be home in two hours." Don't make it a long call. Just a sign that you're still there, even if you're out, you're having a fun time, and you'll be back in two hours.
It’s important that as you get more serious with a boyfriend or girlfriend, your child doesn’t feel replaced by the new partner. Keep the balance in your new family – yes, it’s a new family, a blended family, whether you call it that or not -- going. In addition, the child needs to know that his or her biological mother or father is still going to be their mother or father no matter what.
Quick Tips for Single Parents Dating:
Keep all information age appropriate.
Be honest with your child without taking them on the emotional roller-coaster of a best friend on Sex and the City.
Don't bring your child on your dates.
Don't have a boyfriend or girlfriend sleep at your house when your child is there.
The Top 5 Tips for Dating Parents:
Do introduce only those people who you think will become "regular fixtures.”
Do NOT have a constant parade of new people coming in and out of the house.
Do gradually introduce the concept, emphasizing that this is something all adults do.
Do NOT spring the idea of dating on your kids.
Do remember that dating is a time for you -- as an adult. It's okay to take time for yourself.
Do NOT bring your kids with you on every date.
Do listen to their concerns, but be clear that this is not something for them to decide.
Do NOT allow your children’s concerns to dominate your actions.
Do create an atmosphere of open, honest communication -- and make sure to include your ex-partner so your kids don’t feel any confusion or torn loyalties.
Do NOT ask your kids to keep your dating life a secret, and do NOT EVER ask your children to lie for you about your dating, or anything else for that matter. Under no circumstances is teaching (or encouraging) children to lie a good thing.