Ground Rules for the Separated or Divorced and Dating: Introducing a New Partner to Your Children
Karla has been divorced for two years. She has been dating Ethan for eight months and wonders if she should introduce him to her three children. Are there any “rules” for dating with children?
Marina Sbrochi’s article Dating with Kids: 5 Ground Rules For Introducing Your New Partner To Your Kids recommends that Karla wait at least six months before even thinking about introducing Ethan to her children. Why wait? Ms. Sbrochi suggests that it takes at least six months before you really begin to know someone. Karla’s children do not need to become attached to a man who may not remain in her life.
Karla believes her relationship with Ethan is serious. What ground rules should she follow when she introduces him to her three children?
1. No Expectations. What does this mean? Do not force the relationship. Have the meeting be casual and let everyone get to know each other.
2. Group Setting. Karla should introduce Ethan as a friend. She can plan a small get together with other people her children know so the meeting does not feel forced. Karla should plan at least five group meetings so the children can get to know Ethan in a relaxed atmosphere without any pressure. Karla and Ethan should refrain from showing affection. For now, he is just a friend.
3. Go Slowly. While Karla and Ethan have known each other for 8 months, the children have just met him. It is important for Karla to take her time and follow the cues of her children. Karla should talk to them if they seem unhappy or angry.
4. One Mom, One Dad. Karla’s children may worry that Ethan will replace their father. It is important that Karla reassure the children that they will only have one mom and one dad.
5. Rules for the New Family. Merging families can be complicated. Karla and Ethan need to discuss expectations, discipline, money, education, and any other issues that may affect them. If and when can Karla update her Facebook status to “in a relationship” and post pictures of herself and Ethan together as a couple? At Hess Family Law, we recommend that Karla use caution when posting information about her personal life on any social media sites. Even though Karla has been divorced for two years, custody issues can always be modified. While Karla and her ex-husband may have a good relationship, situations can change. If Karla believes that updating her status will not be a problem, she should certainly wait until her children have been introduced to Ethan and understand that he is more than just a friend.
Study Finds Children of Divorce Much Better Off When Parent’s Find Ways to Co-Parent and Maintain Civility.
Are you wondering how you can help your children during and after divorce? Robert Hughes, Jr.’s blog post discusses this very topic. A study has found that children of divorce fare better when their parents learn to co-parent and maintain civility when dealing with each other. Continued conflict creates damaging stress and interferes with a child’s ability to learn how to manage their own emotions.
At Hess Family Law, we recommend that you have an agreement or court order that provides specifics in an effort to eliminate future conflict so that you and your spouse can develop positive interactions in the future rather than arguing over items that could have been resolved. For example, your agreement or order should include visitation dates, times and other important details. We understand that sometimes clients want flexibility and life often requires it. If you and your spouse or former spouse are co-parenting and maintaining civility, you can always choose to agree for a particular visitation to change the pick-up date, time, or location. The benefit of having specifics in your agreement is that it provides a default plan if you cannot agree to do something different, and therefore lessens the need to argue.
There are many resources available to parents who are divorcing, such as therapists and mediators, who can help with communication and problem solving. Parenting plans can be drafted to address specific concerns and allow both parents to be involved in their children’s lives. A new resource developed by Sesame Workshop called “Little Children Big Challenges:Divorce,” provides a series of activities both online and offline for parents and children. The website is designed to help children ages 2-8 understand their parent’s divorce and provides parents advice on how to talk to their children about divorce in an age appropriate manner.