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The Best Way To Talk To Kids About Dating After Divorce

The Best Way To Talk To Kids About Dating After Divorce

When divorce happens and there are children involved, there are a number of hurdles to jump over: the announcement, the reassurances, the custody decisions. But there’s one more big step for the kids to adjust to: their parents’ post-divorce dating. It’s understandable that as a parent, you might be worried about the outcome, but it’s important to know that your kids are likely feeling the same way. That’s why it’s vital to discuss the notion of Mom or Dad dating after the divorce, so any anxieties or grievances can be out in the open and any doubts can be expelled.

Talking to your children about dating post-divorce can be a frank conversation, but it also needs to be sensitive. Here are a few strategies for breaking the news, and how to deal with any questions or upset feelings in the aftermath.

Make The Conversation Age Appropriate

The first thing you should consider is the age of your children when you discuss dating with them. If they are still very young and don’t quite understand the concept of dating or relationships, that doesn’t quite mean you’re off the hook—you just need to adjust your language to suit their level of comprehension. For toddlers and preschoolers (ages 3-5), an article at Divorce Help for Parents recommends using the term “friend” to refer to your date—as in, “I’m going out to visit my friend,” or “I’m spending some time with my friend tonight.” You can keep up this language for children ages 6 to 10, but once they’re in the pre-teen and young teen years, they’ll likely have some knowledge about dating and relationships. Since they have some comprehension about who you mean when you refer to your “friend,” they may have questions about what this could mean for them (as well as their relationship with you as their parent). Be sure to reassure your child that you have enough love to go around, and no matter what happens with this potential new partner, being a great parent is still your top priority.

When your children are teenagers, it can be one of the trickiest times to broach this conversation—hormones, mood swings, and emotions could be running high on the surface. Be sensitive to how they’re feeling about this shift, and Divorce Help for Parents cautions that there could be similarities in your situations—you can use this as a talking point. Since your teens are also likely dating, it is important to talk with them about how it may be awkward to have a parent dating at the same time. It is also critical that you remain in the role of parent and not turn into your child’s best friend. As during the divorce process, it’s important that you remain acting as a parent to your child, no matter what age they may be.

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Prepare Your Children For Meeting Your New Partner

Now that you’ve discussed the notion of dating with your kids, it might be time for them to meet your new partner. Keep in mind that you don’t need to perform an introduction between your child and every person you date—this can be extremely confusing, especially for young children. Instead, reserve the meeting for when you’re dating a person that you’d like to be in a serious relationship with.

An article at HealthyChildren.org advises that you should be upfront with your child about why you’re seeing this new person and what they mean to you.

“Tell your youngster about this man, and explain why you like him. (Is he smart? Is he fun to be with? Does he have a good job?) Then say something like ‘I was thinking that you might like to meet John. Would you like him to come over for dinner, or would you like the three of us to go out to dinner together?’ Show her that you would like her to participate in arranging this first meeting.”

Making your child part of the process—but without giving them veto rule over your dating life—can help ease them into the idea that Mom or Dad has someone new, and that as the children, they’re still important.

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Reassure Them That Their Other Parent Isn’t Being Replaced

Likewise, a piece at FamilyShare recommends that you spend time preparing your children well in advance of meeting your new partner, and then when it happens, don’t rush things or immediately seek approval.

“Spend short intervals together and let the exposure build over time. Ask the kids for their feedback. Discuss their feelings. Watch how your partner behaves with them. Make sure the kids never feel threatened by the thought they are losing their mom or dad to a stranger.”

One of the biggest fears they may have is that this new partner has been brought in to “replace” the divorced parent, so it’s imperative that you reassure them that this new person isn’t meant to be a new mother or father to them. Their other parent will still be a part of their lives, and their relationship is in no way threatened by this new person.

“Children who have close relationships with both biological parents are more likely to accept a new parent partner into their lives without distress,” says the article at FamilyShare. “Because they feel safe in their relationship with mom and dad, they are less likely to be threatened by a new adult entering the picture.”

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Suffice it to say, this is just another reason to keep the post-divorce relationship with your former partner civil.

Listen To Their Concerns And Feedback

Depending on the age of your children, you may get some pushback when it comes to post-divorce dating. Regardless, encouraging open communication and allowing your kids to speak their mind about your dating partners shows them that you consider their opinions to be important.

“On one hand, it is important for parents to listen to concerns that their children raise about new partners. Dating after divorce requires some caution on the part of adults. Take your children seriously,” says Divorce Help for Parents, while continuing: “On the other hand, you should not be asking permission from your child to date someone. This must be a decision you make. Putting your child in the role of parental decision maker is not healthy for either of you.”

Additionally, it’s vital to pay attention if your children raise red flags about a new partner, including teasing, bullying, unsolicited discipline, or any form of touching that your child may find uncomfortable. Your children need to feel safe and be safe, and this should be at the top of your mind when you’re introducing a new adult into their lives.

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Conclusion

There isn’t one right or wrong time to start dating after a divorce. However, if you have children, the best time to start talking to them about this move is right up front, and then continue to keep the lines of communication open. FamilyShare says it best: “How you approach adding a new partner into your life will affect their long-term relationship with the children. So be careful, considerate and empathic in all your actions.”

How did you talk about the possibility of dating post-divorce with your kids? Tell us about it in the comments.

Featured photo credit: Shutterstock via shutterstock.com

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Last Updated on February 11, 2021

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

Easily Misunderstood by Others? 6 Barriers You Should Overcome to Make Communication Less Frustrating

How often have you said something simple, only to have the person who you said this to misunderstand it or twist the meaning completely around? Nodding your head in affirmative? Then this means that you are being unclear in your communication.

Communication should be simple, right? It’s all about two people or more talking and explaining something to the other. The problem lies in the talking itself, somehow we end up being unclear, and our words, attitude or even the way of talking becomes a barrier in communication, most of the times unknowingly. We give you six common barriers to communication, and how to get past them; for you to actually say what you mean, and or the other person to understand it as well…

The 6 Walls You Need to Break Down to Make Communication Effective

Think about it this way, a simple phrase like “what do you mean” can be said in many different ways and each different way would end up “communicating” something else entirely. Scream it at the other person, and the perception would be anger. Whisper this is someone’s ear and others may take it as if you were plotting something. Say it in another language, and no one gets what you mean at all, if they don’t speak it… This is what we mean when we say that talking or saying something that’s clear in your head, many not mean that you have successfully communicated it across to your intended audience – thus what you say and how, where and why you said it – at times become barriers to communication.[1]

Perceptual Barrier

The moment you say something in a confrontational, sarcastic, angry or emotional tone, you have set up perceptual barriers to communication. The other person or people to whom you are trying to communicate your point get the message that you are disinterested in what you are saying and sort of turn a deaf ear. In effect, you are yelling your point across to person who might as well be deaf![2]

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The problem: When you have a tone that’s not particularly positive, a body language that denotes your own disinterest in the situation and let your own stereotypes and misgivings enter the conversation via the way you talk and gesture, the other person perceives what you saying an entirely different manner than say if you said the same while smiling and catching their gaze.

The solution: Start the conversation on a positive note, and don’t let what you think color your tone, gestures of body language. Maintain eye contact with your audience, and smile openly and wholeheartedly…

Attitudinal Barrier

Some people, if you would excuse the language, are simply badass and in general are unable to form relationships or even a common point of communication with others, due to their habit of thinking to highly or too lowly of them. They basically have an attitude problem – since they hold themselves in high esteem, they are unable to form genuine lines of communication with anyone. The same is true if they think too little of themselves as well.[3]

The problem: If anyone at work, or even in your family, tends to roam around with a superior air – anything they say is likely to be taken by you and the others with a pinch, or even a bag of salt. Simply because whenever they talk, the first thing to come out of it is their condescending attitude. And in case there’s someone with an inferiority complex, their incessant self-pity forms barriers to communication.

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The solution: Use simple words and an encouraging smile to communicate effectively – and stick to constructive criticism, and not criticism because you are a perfectionist. If you see someone doing a good job, let them know, and disregard the thought that you could have done it better. It’s their job so measure them by industry standards and not your own.

Language Barrier

This is perhaps the commonest and the most inadvertent of barriers to communication. Using big words, too much of technical jargon or even using just the wrong language at the incorrect or inopportune time can lead to a loss or misinterpretation of communication. It may have sounded right in your head and to your ears as well, but if sounded gobbledygook to the others, the purpose is lost.

The problem: Say you are trying to explain a process to the newbies and end up using every technical word and industry jargon that you knew – your communication has failed if the newbie understood zilch. You have to, without sounding patronizing, explain things to someone in the simplest language they understand instead of the most complex that you do.

The solution: Simplify things for the other person to understand you, and understand it well. Think about it this way: if you are trying to explain something scientific to a child, you tone it down to their thinking capacity, without “dumbing” anything down in the process.[4]

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Emotional Barrier

Sometimes, we hesitate in opening our mouths, for fear of putting our foot in it! Other times, our emotional state is so fragile that we keep it and our lips zipped tightly together lest we explode. This is the time that our emotions become barriers to communication.[5]

The problem: Say you had a fight at home and are on a slow boil, muttering, in your head, about the injustice of it all. At this time, you have to give someone a dressing down over their work performance. You are likely to transfer at least part of your angst to the conversation then, and talk about unfairness in general, leaving the other person stymied about what you actually meant!

The solution: Remove your emotions and feelings to a personal space, and talk to the other person as you normally would. Treat any phobias or fears that you have and nip them in the bud so that they don’t become a problem. And remember, no one is perfect.

Cultural Barrier

Sometimes, being in an ever-shrinking world means that inadvertently, rules can make cultures clash and cultural clashes can turn into barriers to communication. The idea is to make your point across without hurting anyone’s cultural or religious sentiments.

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The problem: There are so many ways culture clashes can happen during communication and with cultural clashes; it’s not always about ethnicity. A non-smoker may have problems with smokers taking breaks; an older boss may have issues with younger staff using the Internet too much.

The solution: Communicate only what is necessary to get the point across – and eave your personal sentiments or feelings out of it. Try to be accommodative of the other’s viewpoint, and in case you still need to work it out, do it one to one, to avoid making a spectacle of the other person’s beliefs.[6]

Gender Barrier

Finally, it’s about Men from Mars and Women from Venus. Sometimes, men don’t understand women and women don’t get men – and this gender gap throws barriers in communication. Women tend to take conflict to their graves, literally, while men can move on instantly. Women rely on intuition, men on logic – so inherently, gender becomes a big block in successful communication.[7]

The problem: A male boss may inadvertently rub his female subordinates the wrong way with anti-feminism innuendoes, or even have problems with women taking too many family leaves. Similarly, women sometimes let their emotions get the better of them, something a male audience can’t relate to.

The solution: Talk to people like people – don’t think or classify them into genders and then talk accordingly. Don’t make comments or innuendos that are gender biased – you don’t have to come across as an MCP or as a bra-burning feminist either. Keep gender out of it.

And remember, the key to successful communication is simply being open, making eye contact and smiling intermittently. The battle is usually half won when you say what you mean in simple, straightforward words and keep your emotions out of it.

Reference

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