How to talk to your child about: Dating new people

February 14, 2017 Published by

Mother hugging son

As children grow up, they will inevitably come across adult situations they don’t understand and which need to be explained sensitively and in a manner that they can relate to.

This series of articles looks at some of the key life events which parents are likely to find themselves needing to explain and give you some tips on how to help your little ones to understand.

Relationship break-ups can be tricky to navigate at the best of times, and even more so when there are children involved.

Children are likely to go through a range of emotions when their parents decide to go their own separate ways, from upset, to anger, to confusion and more.

It’s also likely to take some time for them to adjust to their new normality once their parents have separated.

Once life has settled into a new normality though and your family is back on an even keel, you may decide to start dating again.

This can be another tricky situation to tackle with your children, from telling them that you are seeing other people, to introducing them to new partners, so we’ve put together some tips to help guide you through each phase of dating more easily for both you and your family.

As with many of these situations, there are no hard and fast rules and each family is different, so you will need to adapt this advice to your own situation.

 

Establish a routine first

It’s important for children to feel safe and secure, so we would recommend that you establish a routine with parental access and custody right from the start.

Once your arrangements are finalised and your children are used to when they see, or stay with each parent, they will be happier and more secure in general, and much more likely to accept new situations.

If they are still a little uncertain of things in their routine and family, they will find it more difficult to adjust to you meeting new people or any other changes that they may face.

 

Tell your ex first

Once you decide to dip your toe back in the dating waters, it’s a good idea to tell your ex-partner first.

Depending on how amicable the split was, this could be a daunting prospect, but if you don’t tell them, your children, a family member or mutual friend is likely to.

The response is likely to be calmer if the news comes from you and it’s fairer for them to know what’s going on if and when your children talk to them about it. Your ex is likely to appreciate the gesture and may find it easier to be more open with you about arrangements at his/her home.

man holding flowers for date

 

Use age appropriate explanations

If you are explaining your dating life to a toddler, it’s usually best to tell them that mummy or daddy is meeting new friends.

They’re too young to differentiate between relationship statuses. However, telling a teen that you have a new ‘friend’ is likely to isolate them as they will know you’re holding information back from them.

Tweens and teens may be dating in some form 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.


 

Click to view the Hi-Res infographic for 6 simple steps to follow to introduce new partners to your kids for quick access!

 


Reassurances

There are many reassurances that children will need when you start dating again.

They need to know that you are not trying to find them a new parent and that a new partner will not replace your ex as their parent.

It’s also important for them to know that you are still there for them in the same way and that dating will not change your relationship with them.

It’s also key, especially for younger children, for them to know that if you find a new partner, it won’t reduce the love you have for them – there’s plenty to go round.

The candle analogy is useful here – a candle that gives it’s light to others candle still burns as brightly and can the light it gives doesn’t get any less – there’s just more light in the room. 

man and woman holding hands

 

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 are upset and show them that their opinion is important to you, although it may 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 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.

 

Read our first article in the ‘How to talk to your child about’ series: New Siblings

 

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This post was written by Katie Roberts-Mason

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