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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 September 18, 2020

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

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Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

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How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

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Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

    Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

    Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

    6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

    If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

    Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

    Final Thoughts

    Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

    Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

    Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

    More Tips on How to Say No

    Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
    [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
    [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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