Most children need some time to adjust to their parents’ separation before their mother or father begins a new romantic interest. A good rule of thumb is a buffer of months but often relationships begin sooner (or later). Be sure to talk to your child or children about your new adult friends and allow them to express their feelings.
Other things to keep in mind:
- You don’t need to introduce your children to everyone you date, only to those with whom you are developing a serious relationship. Although curiosity is to be expected, sometimes an attachment can be formed before it’s appropriate. Explain to your child that not all relationships end in marriage. Don’t put pressure on your friend to meet your child before he/she is ready – or vice versa.
- Prepare your child and friend for the first meeting. Telling your child why you like this man/woman, and why he or she may like them as well. Ask if they want to go out to dinner to meet them, or invite them over, so the child feels that you want them to participate in how the meeting will take place. Tell your friend about your child’s likes, hobbies and interests to help them approach your child.
- Don’t expect miracles. The goal of the first meeting is to say, “Hello.” There’s often heightened anxiety in first meetings, so don’t rush things. Children need to develop their own relationship in their own time.
- Help your child deal with negative feelings. Sometimes children see a new love interest as a threat to the fantasy that parents will get back together. Remind your child/ren that you and your spouse are not getting back together and that everyone will be okay. Any jealousy they feel about your dates will likely resolve after an initial period of adjustment.
- Let your “ex” know you will be introducing your child to your new love interest, so he/she won’t feel like they need to keep secrets. Children should never feel they have to keep secrets from either parent.
- Be sure to show discretion about the intimacies of your new relationship. This is already a sensitive time.
When you have a discussion with your children about a new intimate relationship, encourage them to express feelings, good and bad. This will help them feel more comfortable asking you questions about your new friend and the ways in which you relate.