10 Things To Consider When Divorced Parents Start Dating Again
Children have mixed emotions about their parents’ new relationships. Depending upon their age, they may feel betrayal, jealousy, anger, confusion and even guilt.
1. Children may feel that the parent who is first to begin a new relationship is betraying the other parent. The parent can explain that people adjust differently, and that it is time for him or her to meet and go out with new people, even though the other parent may not be ready to begin another relationship.
2. Children may feel the parent-child relationship doesn’t give parents the opportunity to do all the activities that adults like to do. It’s important to keep on reminding children that friends and new partners do not replace the love between a parent and a child.
3. Children may feel their parents may get back together again. No matter how often parents have told children that getting back together won’t happen, many children continue to hope, even after a second marriage.
4. Children may feel embarrassed that parents have sexual feelings and a need for affection. This is especially true for children in their pre-teens and early teens. Parents should explain that they, like other human beings, have sexual feelings and that these are a natural part of adult life.
5. Children may feel they have been abandoned again and experience a renewed loss when parents spend time with another adult. Finding extra time for the child while seeing a new person is difficult, but important.
6. Children may feel anger at being forced by adults to make another adjustment. How children act out this anger depends on their developmental stage. Clear and sensitive communication is the key to helping children cope with the adjustment.
7. Children may feel anger that parents have their own rules for sexual behaviour and enforce what may seem like different rules for their children. Teenagers are especially likely to feel that while they have curfews or have to date people their parents know and approve of, their parents seem to follow a different standard. Explain that there are two sets of rules – one for adults and one for teenagers – and explain why this is so.
8. Children may feel anger at the loss of privacy. Children need space they can call their own.
9. Whatever the circumstances, dating may trigger emotions that are similar for both parents and children. They may be fearful of being hurt again, worry that they may not be loved by the new person, and have concerns about how the new person will fit into their lives. Parents can use this new situation as an opportunity to talk about how adults – just like children – need peer interaction with people their own age, and supportive relationships.
10. If the marriage ends after one parent leaves the relationship for another partner, children may feel particularly betrayed and angry. Children in these families will need plenty of opportunities to express their confusion and feelings – a difficult task for a parent who may be experiencing similar emotions.
It is important that new partners respect that space and treat children as individuals in their own right.