The divorce is finally over, but now a new chapter begins, and you need to decide if you even have the energy for it. Of course, you want to find new love eventually, but just thinking about dating exhausts you.
And here’s the kicker: You have kids to consider. What will they think? Are they okay with the idea? You’ll realize that your new pursuit of finding love comes with a whole new set of rules and regulations.
Dating after a divorce can make you remember when you dated in college and found that person who made your heart flutter. You were so carefree then.
But now there are kids involved, and things are more complicated than you ever imagined. What was once so easy and natural now comes with grown-up baggage, history, and a shitload of responsibility. It kinda makes you want to throw your hands in the air and exclaim, “I give up!”
That would be the easy way out, but how practical is that? So before you throw in the towel, check out these suggestions for getting back out there and navigating your way through the dating world with kids. It’s not as impossible as you think.
1). Talk Openly and Honestly with Your Kids
Of course, you’ll need to consider your children’s age and emotional maturity, but for kids, 8-year-olds and older, be honest. Your openness is vital to rebuilding lost trust that may have occurred during the divorce. Pick a time and tell them your future plans and how they affect them.
You don’t need to go into detail, but they need to understand that while you love them, you are an adult and need and deserve a social life with other adults.
When explaining, ensure they understand that they are (and will always be) the most important person in your life. Then, gently reinforce that you and their father are divorced and will be moving forward separately in life. Tell them it has nothing to do with them, and they will continue to see each parent equally.
The more you support your ex’s relationship with the kids, the healthier the situation will be.
2). You Don’t Have to Begin Dating Right Away
You don’t need to jump back out there even before the ink is dry on the divorce papers. Instead, give it time for the new normal to sink in with your children and yourself. Use this time to reflect and grieve what once was because you need that time to heal properly.
How are you accountable for your marriage’s demise? How do you plan to move forward and co-parent? After a divorce is the best time to work on yourself because it’s fresh.
Taking some time to get yourself together is a courtesy to your children, too, since their lives will be uprooted. They will continue to see their father in a different capacity than when you were together. Your ex will be out of your life in the family way, but he won’t be out of theirs.
Taking time helps you avoid the traps of a rebound relationship and the impulse to date to prevent loneliness. As a general rule, six to eight months is a good time to wait before dating again.
3). Allow Your Kids to Have Input
Understandably, a child may worry about you replacing the other parent. When that happens, they can attempt to manipulate your view on dating by making you feel guilty.
Reassure them that this will never happen and that their father will always be their father. Tell them you don’t plan on bringing anyone around until you’re sure that they will be a good fit.
You can let them know they have a voice but not a choice. In other words, they can offer their opinion, but you will make the ultimate decision. Doing this sets boundaries when attempting to date.
4). Keep Dating and Family Life Separate
Children may have a difficult time watching their parents date. Kids tend to see everything in terms of ‘how does this affect me?’ and when they see you going out with someone new, they may feel like they’re no longer a priority.
So, if you co-parent, consider going on dates when the kids are with their father. If that isn’t an option, meet your date at the location instead of bringing them to the house.
5). Only Make Introductions After the Relationship Has Developed
Only make plans to introduce a romantic interest to your kids after you become exclusive. You don’t need to be in a committed relationship, but you should be reasonably confident that he is a good fit with your family.
When you plan to make introductions, do so in a comfortable setting so everyone is at ease. For example, a formal dinner at a restaurant is not a good place because it’s not a relaxing environment. Instead, a hike or an outdoor activity is the perfect setting.
Tips for Introducing a New Partner to Your Kids after a Divorce
One of the big questions is when you should introduce a new partner to the children. First, take your time. If you’re dating casually, hold off on making introductions.
However, if you’re ready and enough time has passed (Some experts suggest 6-8 months before dating again), here are a few tips to help you.
Timing is key. You don’t want to make it harder for your children and new partner to bond by introducing them too soon. It’s especially painful if the child hopes their parents will get back together.
- Don’t have any expectations: You can’t force people to like each other, even if they are your child. Telling them to be nice or to like your date is a guaranteed way to mess up the meeting. So instead, allow every to meet and form their own opinions. If you need to help the situation, start by giving common interests. For example, “My son loves video games, too. What’s your favorite again?” This gets a conversation going. However, there is a difference between nudging and forcing a conversation.
- Take it slow: You might have butterflies in your stomach every time you look at him, but your children don’t; they need time to get to know him. Remember, this is a new situation for them, so it’s best not to rush it. If you feel like they have issues with your date, talk to them, and if you need to, slow down. You’re attempting to please everyone in this potentially awkward arrangement, and rushing will not help.
- Meet in a group setting: As stated above, some places are better to meet than others. It’s also good to meet in a group setting. Consider having the first four or five gatherings within a group. For example, have a BBQ with friends and your date. Introduce your date as a friend and allow your kids to know him in a casual and relaxed manner. A group setting is less pressure and feels non-threatening. In addition, hold off on the PDA for the first few meetings. After all, you kids only know him as your friend.
- New family rules: Once the dust settles and you become more comfortable in your new roles, discussing how everything plays out with your new partner is vital. Talk about topics like money, expectations, discipline, education, or anything you might deal with as a family unit. Merging families is a huge deal. You want your children to be okay in this new situation.
- They only have one dad: In this situation, a kid’s confidence can decline, and they might not know where they fit in anymore. Plus, they fear you will use this new guy as a replacement for their dad. There are so many emotions floating around that kids may not understand. Whenever this happens, reassure them that they only have one mom and dad and that no one is trying to replace them. Even if your kids want to call your new partner dad eventually, let them know you’re happy they like him, but they already have a dad. Suggest another positive name like Bonus Dad.
6). Mentally Prepare Yourself
You don’t want to make introductions with expectations because you might be disappointed. However, you want to mentally prepare yourself for how the kids may react to the new relationship.
According to Divorce Mag, the younger children will have a more challenging time adjusting to mom’s new partner. Older kids may understand a bit better, but they can still struggle.
7). Ask Yourself, ‘Are They a Good Fit?’
Sure, you have great chemistry with your new partner, but does the family? And being a fit is vital when it comes to your household. For instance, you and your partner have a great time hanging out together, but when they hang out with the family, is it awkward? Does he have trouble relating to your teen?
One of the more significant issues in dealing with a new partner is that they may not be able to handle dealing with pre-teens or are inexperienced when dealing with toddlers, emotionally and physically.
Maybe he doesn’t have patience and becomes agitated quickly. It would help if you considered these circumstances when considering bringing in your partner to meet your kids.
8). Keep the Initial Meeting Short
You never want to put too much pressure on your children when meeting your new partner, so keep the visit short and sweet.
Instead, let your child meet them at an ice cream parlor or the park. Make your introductions and let your child guide the interactions. If they appear disinterested, take the hint and don’t force it. Let them get used to his presence before he attempts to be their buddy.
Places to for the First Meeting for Your Child and Your New Partner
Your children meeting your new partner is a big milestone in the relationship, so the process can be somewhat intimidating. Make the event as relaxing and fun as possible with a few appropriate places for a first-time meeting.
Toddler to Pre-K
- Watch a favorite movie or TV show in the company of family members
- Plan an outing at their favorite park. Keep it short and sweet
- Play a board game together
- Take a nature hike
Pre-Teen to Teen
- Casual dinners
- Visit a local arcade
Remember, you never want to tell your children how to feel or act. Instead, let the situation unfold naturally. In addition, the initial meeting should always be in a relaxed environment and short. If the child seems to enjoy themselves, extend the time (but not much longer). Use your judgment.
9). Spend Time Together
After the Initial Meeting
- Spend some extra time with your children.
- Reinforce that they are still your main priority, and no one will change that.
- Since you want them to feel comfortable, ask their opinion on your new date or how the initial meeting went.
- Ensure they feel comfortable coming to you with questions or concerns.
- Listen to what they say and have open and honest discussions about it.
Dating after divorce can be a tricky situation. You don’t have a timeline for when:
- You should have your children meet your new partner
- They should like or be comfortable with your partner
They only have one dad. In this situation, a kid’s confidence can decline, and they might not know where they fit in anymore. Plus, they fear you will use this new guy as a replacement for their dad. There are so many emotions floating around that kids may not understand.
Whenever this happens, reassure them that they only have one mom and dad and that no one is trying to replace them. Even if your kids want to call your new partner dad eventually, let them know you’re happy they like him, but they already have a dad. Suggest another positive name like Bonus Dad.
You’ll need patience and understanding because it’s a process that takes time. Sometimes it happens quickly, and other times it will be months before the children become comfortable with who you’re dating. According to Psychology Today, a mom should wait until the relationship has been consistent for at least 8 to 12 months.
Show your children that your new partner makes you happy and that he is eager to do the same for them. Taking your time and checking in with yourself and your children is the best way to ensure it’s a win for everyone involved.