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At a time when your teen is talking to you about dating, it may be time for you, as a divorced mom, to share your plans for dating, too. Approaching the topic with teenage kids, though, can be challenging when met with resistance. “Parents walk a delicate tightrope when introducing the subject of dating,” says Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills, Calif.-based psychotherapist and author of “The Self-Aware Parent.” Keeping the lines of communication open and fostering honest discussions will help both you and your teens adjust to the idea of dating after divorce.
Be Truthful with Your Teens
When you begin dating after divorce, it’s important to be honest and truthful with your teens. “Explain to the kids that you are ready to move on and try and find love in your life,” says Melody Brooke, family therapist in Richardson, Texas. “Explain that even though the divorce and loss of the marriage was painful for you, you hope to find love again because everyone deserves to have love in their life.” Your older children will ultimately understand that you have the right to have a social life, just as they do.
Even though your teens may be aware that you are dating, it’s not necessary to expose them to each and every date. “Parents need to handle dating carefully so as not to set the child up for confusion and stress,” says Brooke. “Keep the dating separate and set up dates so they don’t meet them right away.” Brooke recommends only introducing a new love into your kids’ lives if you believe this person will be around for a long time: “Bringing too many people into and out of your child’s life can be confusing. It’s safest to be really sure first.”
Introducing and talking too much about a new love too soon, could cause your teen to attach themselves to your significant other too soon. “You should only introduce someone whom you have dated for about six months or not until you know you are in a mutually committed relationship,” warns Walfish. “The main reason for this is to avoid your kids forming an attachment to another man who ultimately leaves them.” Teens may also foster resentment toward your new love if they still hold a secret wish for you to rekindle a relationship with your ex-spouse. These feelings of resentment could disrupt the relationship between you and your teen as well as you and your significant other.
Depending upon your teen’s level of maturity, she may not understand that relationships begin with a need for friendship and companionship. If you discuss your need to socialize and spend time with someone with similar interests, your teen may not feel threatened by your dating. Instead of making a big hoopla about dating, Walfish suggests breaking it to your teens gently. “Play it down as a natural progression in the process of Mom having needs just like kids have social needs,” she says.