By Cathy Meyer
Question: I Have Started Dating Again, What Can I Do To Help My Child Adjust?
When parents date, it creates anxiety in children. The changes and losses they have gone through often cause them to feel insecure. They may become withdrawn and rebellious or over attached to you. Each child, depending on age and personality, will react differently. But it is important to understand that they are struggling.
- Give them reassurance.They need to know that their relationship with you will not change because you are beginning to date. If you child feels secure in their relationship with you, they are less likely to feel threatened or afaid. Don’t allow dating to interfere with visitation schedules or normal child/parent activities. Quality time with you tells your child they are important and that you are paying attention to their needs.
- Allow your child to express all their feelings about your dating.Listen and show concern, do not over react by yelling, judging or criticizing them or their feelings. The goal is to help them express their needs and feelings about the situation without doing damage. Don’t ignore it or try and gloss over it just because you are uncomfortable with it.
- Don’t introduce casual dating partners to your children.
Children become attached easily and then suffer more loss. Having a revolving door with many short - term relationships in your child’s life causes ambivalence. It is wise to be discreet so that you will avoid causing confusing and stressful feelings in your child.
- Don’t force an introduction on your child.Never force your child to meet or accept someone you are dating. It is OK to expect your child to behave well but, don’t dismiss their feelings or force your new relationship down their throat. Give the child time to get to know the new person in your life. If handled correctly, given time, your child will accept the relationship.
- Be a positive role model to your child.Children learn more by example than by what you say. If you have teenage children keep in mind that they are struggling with their own emerging sexuality and don’t need to have to deal with yours at the same time. Keep your sex life separate from your children’s lives.
- Don’t allow your date to discipline.Your children will respond to you better than your boyfriend/girlfriend. Until the new relationship has had time to become permanent it is better that they don’t have authority over your child. Set boundaries for your children and teach them how to behave appropriately yourself.