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Dating After Divorce:when/ How to Tell the Kids

Im recently divorced (final as of January 09) and want to date but am scared because of my daughters reaction. I started seeing someone right after I filed, and the kids found out and it did not go well. I pretty much called it quits because I realized I wasnt ready and couldnt handle how uspet it made my kids. No matter how much I told them I am still their mom, no matter what, and they come first, etc. My ex was even pretty cool about the whole thing- we talked to them together and tried to be reassuring. Anyways, it all kind of blew over, then my ex told them he is "thinking about dating" (hes actually been seeing someone for a month) and the girls got all uspet all over again. I felt like he should have just kept it quiet for at least 6 months, but he didnt want to 'betray' them. Im in the process of getting both kids into therapy over the whole divorce(we were married for 10 years). The kids are with me 80-90% of the time...Id really like to keep seeing the man I was beginning a great relationship with ( hes willing to wait) but I just dont know how to integrate him into my life...So my question is: how have other people dealt with this? What are the signs that the kids are ready to handle a new relationship? Or do they always hate it, and do you just have to make them deal with it ? What helps?

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Single mom with young girls right after a divorce are a field day for pedophiles. Be careful.

I hated my mom dating after my parents divorced. I was 10. Maybe wait till they're 18?

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Dear L.,
My kids were 11 and 1 when I left my abusive husband.
The only thing worse than being married to him was trying to get away. No divorce, even under the best of circumstances is easy and I think a woman does herself a disservice by not giving herself time to heal, get her head together and make sure she is a whole person before trying to begin another relationship.
I may be at the far end of the spectrum in my opinions, but I have known so many women that CANNOT be without a man. At least they think they can't. They go from one relationship to the next and they've done it in front of their kids. It makes me sad. I think it sends a signal to children (who have already gone through the emotional loss of an intact family unit) that relationships just come and go and can't be trusted.
I've been divorced 12 years and I'm still a single mother. I made a decision very early on not to have a man parade going in and out of the house in front of my kids. There have been plenty of men who have been interested in me and vice versa, but I can go out to dinner with someone a few times and tell if it's going anywhere or not, with my kids being none the wiser.
My daughter will be turning 23 and my son is 13. It will take someone very special and me having invested the time to find out if things can remain solid before I introduce them to my kids. Do I regret my decision? Not really.
I'm 46 now and I often think it would have been nice to be remarried and have a husband by now, but let's face it...I haven't found the right person. When I do, my kids will be happier for me than anyone.
It's tempting to say it's so important for daughters not to get the idea women are supposed to have a different man all the time, but I don't want my son to have the idea that what men do is be around for a little while and then they're gone. On to the next girl.
If you think kids aren't affected or don't have their opinions about things, you are wrong.
My son's best friend is a girl who confides in him because her mother cheated on her father so now they are going through a divorce and she had to move to a different town to live with her dad and everytime she does get to see her mom, there is a different boyfriend. She's not even with the one that caused the divorce anymore.
Just be careful. Take time to focus on you and your girls. Your personal life isn't their concern, meaning, they shouldn't have to be concerned with it. Or about it. That goes for how your ex handles his dating information too.
Tread lightly.

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Hi L..

As a child of divorced parents, I have to tell you I hated my mom dating. And I was 15 when she dated and married her current husband. It did me a lot of emotional harm. I didn't want her with my dad, because he was a jerk, but I didn't want her with this man either. Of course now that I'm in my 40's I look back and know it was selfish, but those were very real feelings that affected the rest of my life. I'm not sure that I was the most selfish in the situation.

My own story is that I also divorced and have 2 boys ages 8 and 12. They were 4 and 8 at the time of the divorce. When we left my verbally abusive husband, my oldest son cried that he never wanted to see him again and wanted God to bring him a new daddy. So when I met what I thought was the perfect new daddy, both my boys protested that they didn't want me to date anyone. They know and love the man, but they were seriously upset. so I made the decision that I will not date until they are out of the house (18) or they change their minds. In the meantime, their dad has been engaged 6 times in the past 4 years. They hate him for it. They have hated every girl he has brought home and introduced them to. They have no respect for him and even call him names without me saying a word about him. They aren't stupid. I also feel that I deserve to have a love in my life, but I love my children more than any man and can give them a few years if that is going to make them feel more loved. It is only a few years out of my life, but it will make a huge difference in their emotional health. And if they change their minds before then, I might wait anyways. Right now we have a great situation where we all communicate well with each other and live well together. I want to keep it that way for now.

1 mom found this helpful

Why not just see the guy on the sly? There is no reason your kids need to know everything about your personal life. Not everything you do is their business.

They will not be happy knowing you are dating and the knowledge will not help them in any way.

Sometimes white lies or lies by omission are a good thing. When and if something becomes really really really serious with a guy, like after a two or three years, and you know you guys are going to get married, you can start introducing him then.

Actually, I'll amend that a little -- I guess part of deciding if you can marry someone is knowing how he is with your kids, you will have to introduce him a little sooner than that if you feel he is marriage material, but make sure he is really worth putting your kids through all that before you bring him into the home.

And yes, I think they always hate it.

1 mom found this helpful

Single mom with young girls right after a divorce are a field day for pedophiles. Be careful.

I hated my mom dating after my parents divorced. I was 10. Maybe wait till they're 18?

It's way too soon for your kids to be involved or informed about either of you dating. I don't believe it would be appropriate to introduce new people into their lives (especially since with dating, as we know, those people are most often temporary) until it's absolutely certain the person is NOT temporary. After six months to a year, I think it'd be okay to say you might date, but I don't think any details or specifics at their age are necessary. I'm glad you found them counseling, maybe the counselor can help with advice on this.

Dear L.,

How you go about this will/can affect your girls forever. I know you are young and probably lonely and you DO deserve a life.

I would reccommend you see your guy (nice that he is willing to wait), when your girls are spending time with their father.

At 6 and 10 all your girls probably want is mom and dad back together. You can take the high road and talk to them in a positive way about dad's new girl friend. (That is, as long as you know the woman is nice/good to your girls).

If you do this, when it is time for you to introduce a new man into their lives, they will be more reseptive.

Take you time with the dating thing, the kids are way more important.


Hello: Why try to worry your children?
My sister never introduced her children to any man until she had dated them for 6 months and had done a backround check to make sure they wouldn't hurt her children. She dated only on the days that her chhildren were with their father and it has been a healthy inviroment for all of them. Good Luck, Nana G.

In dating with kids after divorce you have to understand their feelings. They will always hope to be a family with their mom and dad again. You both have to sit with them and tell them that you care about each other and always will but that you are not good for each other in a marriage but you will always be there for them. I dated when my son was with his father and didn't introduce anyone to them until there is potential that it could be more. You can have a few family dates and that will make them feel a part of it. At this point there should not be any sleepovers when the children are home.

You should be focusing on your kids and only your kids. They have just been through something difficult and need you. Bringing another man around who isn't their father is not right. The girl's have a right to be upset and you should hold off on dating until your kids are grown and mature enough to understand and handle. If I were to get divorced, dating would be the last thing I would do or worry about. Why are you jumping so quickly into a new relationship? I wouldn't point fingers at your x because he has a new girlfriend. Unfortuantely with the kids with you the majority of the time, you have to be the mature, role model.
Put your daughter's needs first. As a mother we give up a lot and right now, dating is what needs to go. Focus on being a mom and being the best you can.

Please hold off on the dating. It is much too soon for them to see you with another man. I have watched my own sister and several friends bring boyfriends into their children's lives thinking "he was the one" only for the relationship to end and the kids being disappointed again. Seeing their mother dating only sexualizes their lives. They are probably already devastated about their home life being destroyed and I don't think they need their mother's attention diverted. If you "must" date then please only do it when the kids are with their dad. Don't talk about it with them and don't bring him home. Even though you may feel alone, this is a time when your own needs need to be put aside. Your girls are still so very young and right now only their feelings, emotions and hurts should be your concern. Please don't make them "deal with it". I have watched too many young girls feel "left behind" and get involved with the wrong things as they approach their teenage years all because they feel that they were not the first concern in their parents lives. Parenthood is all about sacrifice, sacrifice and more sacrifice.

Look for a 'Divorce Care' class from a local church in your area (www.divorcecare.com). They also have one for kids to help them deal with issues of divorce. Kids often feel responsible even though you tell them they are not. You do not have to be a member of the church, it is a community class and has helped so many people I know. But you really should wait 1 year for every 5 you were married. Your kids deserve you giving them time to grieve the marriage. It is a huge loss for them, even when we think hey are doing fine, this affects them the rest of their lives.
Good luck.

Hi L.,
First let me say I've never been in your shoes, so take this for what it's worth from someone who's never been there. However, I have watched many friends go through this very thing with children of very similar ages to your own. There is no way to start seeing someone else without it being traumatic to your children to some extent, so no matter what, it will be difficult (at least from what I've seen). But let me also say this. Most newly divorced men and women do not know how to have a healthy relationship, thus the divorce. So my feeling is to wait a very long time before you start looking for the next man up. I can only imagine how lonely it can get being divorced and seeing others married or dating etc and wanting that wonderful "new love" feeling for yourself. But whether you realize it or not, you are not ready for another relationship. You were married for 10 years...that is a very long time. And in that time you and your ex developed ways of handling things that eventually led to the divorce. You have not had time to overcome that and re-learn what a healthy, positive relationship is yet. Believe it. You may feel ready, but what you really feel is a longing for someone to love and care about us...which is a human feeling and completely normal. But for your sake and the sake of your children, you need to spend the next several years taking care of your children, putting them first and putting relationships with other men on the way back burner for now. When the time is right, the situation will work out. Please take time....LOTS of it. God bless.

I am probably going to be the one dissenting opinion here. But I think if you want to date ... date. There are ways to balance out YOUR needs (yes you have them and NO THEY SHOULD NOT be put on the back burner until your kids no longer live at home) and the needs of your children.

My parents divorced when I was only about 4. My dad remarried pretty much right away, and my mom was in a relationship shortly after. It didn't "scar me for life" and I never held onto the "maybe mom and dad will get back together" thought. Maybe because I was so young and my parents "dating" was basically a part of my life that was just there.

My mom dated on and off through out most of my childhood. Some of the men she dated I got to know very well as her boyfriends, some I met only briefly as they came to pick her up for a date. She didn't introduce them as anything more than a friend unless they had been dating for a while. Other than that she made it VERY clear that some things were just NONE OF MY BUSINESS. She was the adult and she could take a couple hours to herself if she wanted or needed it. When she finally did remarry I was 15 and couldn't have been more happy for her. SHE deserved to be loved and DESERVED to have a mate.

What my mom NEVER hesitated to do though was let me know that she loved me and that I was important to her. My dad too. But they also made it clear that some things I had very little say in. Like them dating, because I was a child and had no real concept of their needs.

Only you know if you're truely ready to move on to a new relationship or not. But there are ways to work in dating and your daughter's needs. As some suggested there is the option of dating only when they are at their dad's. There is also the option of simply saying you are going out with a friend and giving no other explanations than that.

Just keep reinforcing and showing that you and daddy both love them and your daughters will be fine.

There is nothing wrong with dating, it is just the way you handle it. You should go out on dates but I wouldn't introduce your children to anyone until you are serious about that person. This way your children won't have issues with abandonment later. Meaning, they already miss their dad even if they do see him, it will never be the same and if you date one guy that they finally like and it doesn't work out they can adapt all kinds of issues because of this, so by all means date, but both of you should handle it responsibly. Good luck.

I am so sorry for your family. I imagine it can not be easy for any of you. With that being said, maybe you and your ex should consider not dating until the girls are 18. I know this "Dr. Laura"ish suggestion may not be popular but taking time away from children, introducing virtual strangers to them, complicating their lives and yours with "stepmoms" and "stepdads" and other kids... all the stuff and conflict that goes with that may not be in their best interest. My only thought is that anything you and your ex can do to help keep the children as your focus and to continue to work as a team to raise them would be positive.

Having gone through my own divorce years ago (no kids at the time), I think it takes a really long time to adjust and heal from ending a long term marriage. I'm talking years, and even though you think you may be ajusted and healed, it takes a lot of work and time.

My suggestion would be to wait until you've truly and honestly adjusted and healed, then help your kids adjust and heal, and then think about dating. I'm not judging, but my personal philosophy is to not take time or energy away from those kids until they are at peace. Dating takes time and energy -- save it for the kids. As a family, you'll know when the right time to date is, intuitively. In the meantime, those kids are your priority, and if you're not giving it all the energy you have when they need it the most during this transition, you may lose them or their sense of security. I imagine they need a lot of reassurance now.

Again, another suggestion that is a little "Dr. L.-ish". I've seen my sister who has been divorced for 10+ years go into and out of 6 "I think this could be serious" relationships. Each guy had kids, so my sister figured it would be okay to introduce her kids to the new guy and his kids--thought it would be fun for them all to do things together. She did this fairly early on in each relationship. I always reminded her what Dr. L. said and her reply was "I deserve to have a relationship," "I don't want to grow old by myself," "why can't I have a private life since the kids spend 1/2 of their time with their dad?" My response to the last one would always be--see him when you don't have the kids, but don't introduce him into their lives--period. She always thought that "he was the one" and so thought it okay to get them all together. She dated each of these guys about a year, and some might assume that that is a serious relationship--but eventually they came to an end, and she started up with another guy, introducing him into her family shortly thereafter. I know the kids hated it--they confided in their cousins (my kids) that it really bothered them. Their father started a new relationship shortly after the divorce as well, but that one did end in marriage. That introduce a step-mom that they "kind of get along with", but have had to have family counseling because of some strain adjusting with that new situation. She brought with her her two children with some issues of their own--which added to the overall stress at that home. Think long and hard about this. You have your kids little for only so long. Do what is best for them.

L. its not that bad I have 3 boys an as girl an to tell u the truth it is a long hard road the girls will take along time u an the ex have to inforce or get them to understand which will be hard since they had both for a long period of time that there father an u decided that it was time to go our seperate ways but it doesn't mean that the both of u don't love then but htat u an the ex need to part an there will be other people in both of there lives. Now like u say may be 2 soon just give it some time an go c ur friend be urself it goin to take time for them to adjust. an do alot of praying they will do thing to get both of ur attention. Good and Bad

Dating after divorce is tricky. I've been divorced for 15 years and re-married my high school sweetheart just two years after my divorce. My daughter is now graduating from HS and tells me that she still has a secret wish that she had one family. So, children will always secretly wish that their lives could be normal but, eventually they will learn to deal with reality. It's so much easier on the kids if parents take dating slowly and only introduce the new partner when they are both sure that the relationship is going to be a long lasting one. The last thing the children need is several people popping in and out of their lives. I've seen children resent their parents and hate ALL potential partners.
Therapy can help both parents and children deal with the realities of divorce and learn to respect each others feelings.
Take your time...a 10 year marriage can not be easy for the children to get over and it's harder on them because it's natural for children to want mom and dad to be together.

I have cared for kids in our child care whose parents divorced while in my care. As long as the parents don't have a boyfriend or girlfriend, the kids really think that their parents will get back together. Really. And this goes on for years. My granddaughter had a step dad, an awful one. There is fear of the unknown and it differs with what age the child is. My friend did not let her dates meet her children until they were in a serious relationship because she didn't want men coming in and out of her three children's lives. I suggest reading books from the library about this topic which is very common.

Well I am the new wife to a divorced man. When I met him, he told me that he would never kiss me, hold hands or anything like that in front of his kids. Totally fine. We would hang out with the kids, go to the park, pumpkin patches ect (he told them I was just his friend) Kids were 7 and 1 year old at he time. He lived in the smallest apartment I had ever seen. When we finally moved in together (6 months later)he told his daughters that we were roommates. When the kids came for the weekends he slept in the other room with the girls. Still we did not hug, kiss, hold hands ect. Until the one day his oldest daughter told me she was sad that Daddy did not have a girlfriend because Mommy already had a boyfriend. I asked her if she wanted Daddy to have a girlfriend and when she said yes my Husband asked her "who did she have in mind for Daddy". The cutest thing ever happend. She had her back to me looking at her Daddy, when he said that she pointed back to me with her thumb and a nod of the head towards me. So from that day on I was her Daddy's girlfriend. Now we are married. I think the best thing is not to force a new person on the kids. No kid wants a parent replaced but let them see you with friends and in time I think they will come around to the fact that new people in their mom or dad life is not bad. I have never been divorced and I don't have kids of my own, except 2 beautiful step daughters but I came from a divorced family and I totally respect my Husband for the way he was with introducing me to his girls. Now I am so close with the girls and everyday we thank his oldest daughter for picking me to be daddy's girlfriend. Don't know if this helps any. Good luck.

Hi L.,
I just had to chime in (which I very rarely do) when I read some of the responses you received - wow, folks are all over the map!
One important note to make here relates to this absurd "wait til they are 18" comment that surfaced over and over again...it will be no easier for your kids to "share" you with a man when they are legal adults than when they are pre-teens...I have men in my life whose mothers never remarried and they carry their own baggage as adults when it comes to relationships because they didn't have a mother as role model who showed her needs, wants, and life were equally as valuable as theirs...there is a fine line here, and that's just the nature of the beast - depending on your personal situation and the personalities of your kids, there may never be a good time for a new person to enter your life...I can say though, that you will slowly begin resenting your daughters if you put your life on hold just in case they feel pain or discomfort. Does that mean you should hop right into a new relationship and bring the girls along with you? Absolutely not...but I do think you can date this man when your girls are with their father, as least for a while and then "wean" them if it appears you are entering a more permanent relationship.
Another note - you cannot control what your ex does with his "new life" and so you will be facing this issue one way or the other.
As a child of divorce who is extremely close with both my parents I can tell you there are no easy answers - but clear communication, clear boundaries and above all *consistency* will keep you guys together...I hope this helps and wish you all the very best in life!

My parents divorced when I was 7 and my mother remarried the father of one of my good school friends when I was 9. Her divorce from my Dad was "amicable" but that doesn't mean much to a child. I still suffered all the usual complicated and painful feelings. My mother's dating and remarriage were a pivotal point in my young life and though everyone "tried their best" I have scars to this day from that time that affected all my relationships, whether romantic, friendly or professional. I believe I would have benefited from some therapy at the time and so I encourage you to get some therapy for your girls. Maybe go together. It might be a little scary now, but it could be a lot scarier later when they are truly teens and learning how to build their own social world. Not to mention when they contemplate beginning their own families.
I don't blame you for wanting a new life and a fresh romance, but though your commitment to your ex-husband is now void, you still have a commitment to your children. And since your ex is not part of your family core any longer, your kids health and well being is truly your #1 priority.
I hope the transition is positive for you and that the three of you emerge loving each other even more strongly.

My advice would be to not date until the kids are OK with it. I had a disaterous family situation because I dated too soon. It is not worth it, really. Be a mom first! Good luck!

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