How to talk to your child about: Dating new people
Relationship breakups can be tricky to navigate and when children are involved this can be even trickier.
It takes some adjusting to for everyone in the family, especially younger children as they get their heads around this ‘new normal’ and it is common for them to experience a range of emotions as their parents decide to separate.
Inevitably, you may eventually decide to start dating again and this can be a tricky situation to tackle with children, from telling them that you are seeing other people, to introducing them to your new partner.
We’ve put together some tips that can help guide you through each phase of dating more easily for both you and your family:
Establish a routine first
- It is important for children to feel safe and secure, so we would recommend establishing a routine with parental access and custody from the start.
- Children will find it much easier to adjust to meeting new people and new situations if they feel secure and are used to when they see or stay with each parent.
Tell your ex-partner first
- It is a good idea to let your ex-partner know before telling your children. This may be a daunting prospect (depending on how amicable the split was) but the news is better coming from you instead of your child, a family member or mutual friend.
- It is also fairer for them to know what’s going on if and when your children talk to them about it. Your ex-partner is likely to appreciate the gesture and may also find it easier to be more open with you in return.
Use age-appropriate explanations
- When it comes to toddlers, it’s usually best to tell them that mummy or daddy is meeting new friends – they’re too young to differentiate between relationship statuses.
- Tweens and teens may be dating in some form of themselves, or at least be aware of the dynamics of dating, so be more transparent when discussing the situation with them and explain that you are meeting new people with the hope of starting a relationship.
- It is important to maintain the parent/child relationship here though – they won’t want to know too much detail, so keep explanations broad!
When you start dating, your children will need to know:
- That you are not trying to find them a new parent or replace your ex as their parent
- That you are still there for them in the same way and your relationship will not change
- That if you find a new partner, it won’t reduce the love you have for them as there’s plenty to go around.
Listen to concerns
- Children will become frustrated and upset if you don’t take their opinions into consideration. Even if they aren’t reacting very well to the news of you dating, try to have an open chat with them about why they may be upset and show them that their opinion is important to you, even if it might not change things.
Introduce new partners slowly
- Think about when the right time to introduce a new partner is – this will depend on the age of your children and the relationship they have with your ex.
- It’s always a good idea to spend some time getting to know the person and making sure that you feel the relationship has a future before involving the children.
The first meeting
- This should be short and sweet and in a neutral environment like a restaurant, park, or bowling alley, ideally with lots of other people around.
- Try to avoid inviting your new partner into the home for the first meeting as that can feel intimidating for your children.
It is important to remember that as with many of these situations, there are no hard and fast rules and each family is different so this advice may be adapted to your own individual situation.
It is understandable to feel daunted by the thought of even starting to date somebody new, let alone thinking about introducing them to your children. We hope that this article provides you with some practical tips on how to tackle this exciting new step while making sure that everyone involved feels secure and happy.
Updated: February 2020Tags: dating, family, relationships
Categorised in: Valentine's Day
This post was written by Katie Roberts-Mason