Dating after a divorce can be a precarious situation for both parents and children. Approaching the topic may come more naturally in some cases, and some children will naturally be more inquisitive about future relationships and their personal role in this newly structured family. Talking to children about dating after a divorce will vary greatly depending on the current relationship of the divorced parents, the age and temperament of the children, and various other factors.
Michelle Mahendra is an herbalist and mother to a four-year-old girl. She has firsthand experience dating with a child and decided that her strategy was to keep her child as uninvolved as possible unless the relationship became serious and the couple was considering moving in together. She noted that it was important to her that her daughter not think that every man who comes to her home to pick her up on a date may be a potential next step-father. Instead, Michelle has decided to shelter her daughter until the relationship is at a certain critical point for moving forward.
Many parents wonder about the professional opinion and recommendations of psychologists and doctors on the issue of parental dating. Dr. Alan Yellin is a psychologist and a marriage and family therapist who believes that the time to introduce a child to a significant other is when you are pretty certain that you are going to move on the path towards engagement or when you are engaged. He recommends starting off rather slowly without any demonstration of affection and for a short period of time. Increasing the frequency and duration of visits over time allows children to develop a relationship with the significant other rather than feeling like they suddenly have a new mom or dad, or someone to compete for attention with.
There is no absolute right time to introduce your child to your new significant other, and no specific rules for dating after divorce- always use your best judgment and do what you feel is best for your child. Some children react well and are happy to meet a new person, while others will find the experience upsetting and confusing. Seek counsel from trusted family and friends and always make sure you are acting in the best interest of your child. You may be excited for your new partner to meet your child, but consider that your child might not be ready or may need to move more slowly in building this new relationship.