Advertising
Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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.”

Advertising

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.

Advertising

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

More by this author

divorce The Best Way To Talk To Kids About Dating After Divorce

Trending in Communication

1 19 Golden Pieces of Relationship Advice From the Experts 2 Signs Of Low Self-Esteem And The Root Causes You Might Not Know 3 How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship 4 How to Live in the Moment and Stop Worrying About the Past or Future 5 This Is What Happens When You Move Out Of the Comfort Zone

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

Advertising

The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

Advertising

If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

Advertising

In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

Advertising

It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

More Articles About Effective Communication

Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next