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How Honest Should You Be With Your Kids About Dating After Divorce?

How Honest Should You Be With Your Kids About Dating After Divorce?

The kids come first: all divorced parents know this. That’s why they approach dating with an abundance of caution. If you’ve landed on this blog post, you’re doing the responsible thing: discovering what’s at stake for your children once you share your choice to start dating after divorce. Honest discussions may or may not go smoothly. Still, it’s only fair to include your children in your plans for the family structure going forward.

Why the Struggle?

Many divorced fathers dread explaining to children that they’re going to meet a “new friend.” Fathers can feel like they’re betraying their current loves — their children — by sharing themselves with a new love interest.

Father’s’ concerns are warranted. Kids have robust fantasies that their parents—the two most intense love objects in their lives—will reconcile. Gary Neuman, creator of Sandcastles, a popular and court-mandated divorce therapy program for children, explains that witnessing a parent date is so difficult because it makes it very clear that their unification fantasies will never come to pass.

That’s a tough message to absorb.

Neuman and many psychologists explain that when the family breaks up, a child’s identity may be at risk. Where a child comes from vigorously feeds his self-concept. Neuman relates the story of one child who said, “I feel now that my parents are separated, I don’t exist.” That’s tough. No wonder divorced parents are reluctant to start dating. The good news is that, as time goes on, this fantasy fades. Introducing a girlfriend two years or more later goes far better than introducing her three months after the separation. Experts agree that divorced fathers should establish a new routine with their children as a family before bringing in another member of the special family. This can take at least two if not as long as five years.

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Making it clear to children that you have plenty of love to share and do not plan to reduce the amount of time or effort invested in them goes far in easing their fears that they may somehow lose you. Children may also be concerned that, by accepting your new partner they’re betraying their mother. Let them ask their questions, and gently bring up that you don’t expect them to like your friend any more than their own mom.

Discussing Dating after Divorce: What to Bring Up & When

Too often, children prepare themselves for an outing with dad only to hear that the “new friend, Paula” will be joining them. Counselors encourage parents to discuss their dating lives with their children before dropping the new love in on a family activity this way. Parents who go with the “don’t ask; don’t tell” approach to dating rob children of the important experience of contributing input.

Fathers may try hard to emphasize the “friendship” aspect of the new relationship, but children see through that phrasing in an instant. Therefore, it’s important to let children know that, just as they long for the company of friends their own age, so too do you need adult companionship. Therefore, the first honest talk about dating to have is the “Dad’s been dating here and there” discussion. This allows them to get used to the idea and also come up with and ask the important questions. Discussing the events in your life, even your loneliness and goals, will help them feel important. These honest dialogues will stay with them as they begin dating in their teen years.

One thing some parents do when they start dating is explain that they’d like to meet someone with whom they’d like to spend a lot of time. After they explain the qualities and interests they’re looking for, they ask their children what qualities and interests they’d like to see. If you ask this question, be ready for silly answers from young children. Still, bringing them into the process helps them internalize how important they are to you. That’s a wonderful gift to give your children.

The Introduction Discussion

Once you’ve found someone you think could go long term, share this with your children as well. Tell them your partner’s name, other important facts and some of the things you do together. Sharing these details will create anticipation in your children. Foment curiosity in them so that when you do bring everyone together, they feel they’re joining an important part of your life.

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The timing: divorced fathers often have time to meet with dating prospects or love interests for a long time before choosing one and introducing them to children. The generally accepted advice from divorce coaches and counselors is to wait until the relationship is very serious or moving toward permanency before any introductions take place. That means one or even two years not only after the divorce itself, but after the period in which you grieve the lost relationship and work on yourself to become a better partner. The last thing children need is to bond or form a relationship with someone who may disappear in the next few months.

Still, letting children know that you’ve chosen one woman to date exclusively eases them into the new vision of you with a new partner. Prepare yourself for questions like these:

The kids come first: all divorced parents know this. That’s why they approach dating with an abundance of caution. If you’ve landed on this blog post, you’re doing the responsible thing: discovering what’s at stake for your children once you share your choice to start dating after divorce. Honest discussions may or may not go smoothly. Still, it’s only fair to include your children in your plans for the family structure going forward.

When Children Have Objections to the New Partner

Yet another honest discussion dating dads have with children begins with, “I don’t like it when she . . . “

Getting children to like a new partner can be a struggle. There are far more issues at work than your new friend’s personality, quirks or interests. Children must adjust to new routines, struggle with loyalty to their mothers and fears about sharing their fathers. In other words, lots of subconscious stuff can interfere in the relationship.

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Teens can process change and new identity of their father as a romantic individual better than younger children. Still, keeping young adults in the family-decision-making loop goes far in keeping the peace. Just listening to younger children and repeating their concerns back to them reassures them that their issues matter. Use messages like, “when she laughs really loud, it makes you think she’s fake” or “so you don’t like it when she interrupts you.” Then try to come up with solutions together. Ask, “what do you think we should say to her to get her to cut it out?” or “how can we act to help her talk better to us?”  Even emphasizing with your child on minor points helps. “You’re right. She does ask waiters too many things! I wonder why?” All of these phrases ensure that lines of communication remain open and the child is just as important as ever.

  • Will she be going to my soccer game? Will you be able to watch me if she does?
  • Does she think she can boss me around?
  • When do we meet her?
  • Will she want me to call her mom?
  • Will mom be mad?
  • Should we tell mom? / What do we tell mom?
  • Can I tell mom about your new girlfriend?
  • Is she going to be here all the time?

These questions bring up serious issues regarding the new routine you’ll work out with your new partner. For instance, question number two, “does she think she can boss me?” is critical to children. Experts agree that step-parents do best when they refrain from disciplining each other’s children. The discipline remains in the hands of the biological parents only. Working out these questions with your new girlfriend deepens your relationship and sidesteps problems before they even begin.

The Event:  Dating and divorce experts agree that the first introduction shouldn’t include a serious sit down dinner where children and your new girlfriend sit face to face asking awkward questions. Instead, meet for a common activity like bowling, mini-golfing or biking outside of the home. Make the date relatively short: no all-day amusement park outings. Ask your children what they would like to do. Offer younger children a choice of three events. Let teens contribute their ideas.

Gradually work up from quick interactions to more in-depth, longer ones. Always make sure to set aside time to spend alone with your children.

When Children Have Objections to the New Partner

Yet another honest discussion dating dads have with children begins with, “I don’t like it when she . . . “

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Getting children to like a new partner can be a struggle. There are far more issues at work than your new friend’s personality, quirks or interests. Children must adjust to new routines, struggle with loyalty to their mothers and fears about sharing their fathers. In other words, lots of subconscious stuff can interfere in the relationship.

Teens can process change and new identity of their father as a romantic individual better than younger children. Still, keeping young adults in the family-decision-making loop goes far in keeping the peace. Just listening to younger children and repeating their concerns back to them reassures them that their issues matter. Use messages like, “when she laughs really loud, it makes you think she’s fake” or “so you don’t like it when she interrupts you.” Then try to come up with solutions together. Ask, “what do you think we should say to her to get her to cut it out?” or “how can we act to help her talk better to us?”  Even emphasizing with your child on minor points helps. “You’re right. She does ask waiters too many things! I wonder why?” All of these phrases ensure that lines of communication remain open and the child is just as important as ever.

Featured photo credit: Shutterstock via thumb7.shutterstock.com

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Peter Mueller

Founder of Father's Rights Law Center

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Published on June 24, 2020

How to Be a Successful And Happy Stay at Home Mom

How to Be a Successful And Happy Stay at Home Mom

I can’t think of a more rewarding job, nor a more challenging one than being a Stay-at-Home-Mom (SAHM)! There is no shortage of opinion, however, as to the pros and cons of going on active duty until your kid/s turns 18 and flies off to college.

When you choose a career such as this, you’re in it for the long haul. But by the end of your journey, you’ll be decorated with every possible medal of honor. And may I say, indisputably deserved.

Think about it: a SAHM is a queen. She has one of the most important jobs of all—managing the castle, all that it entails, and its inhabitants.

For most of you, your home is your castle. It is where your most valuable possessions reside—your loved ones, your pets, your memories, and the special items you’ve collected over the years. It is where you feel comfortable, uninhibited, and free to be yourself. It is where you dine, sleep, and relax. It is everything!

Being the queen of your castle is like being the president. What other position carries as much clout other than being the president?

Taking care of that castle and its occupants is no easy task; it is a highly-ranked position that deserves every available merit.

Yes, staying at home can be a big decision, especially if you have a career and have been used to praise, socialization, and a regular paycheck. You might even think that if you decide to stay home, it is a “step down,” a demotion of sorts. But nothing could be further from the truth.

Why Being a Stay-at-Home Mom Is an Important Career

Being a SAHM requires wearing a litany of hats. You’re a full-time babysitter, a Lyft driver without tips or 5-star ratings, a nurse, a chef, a behavioral therapist, and most importantly, a teacher.

Teachable moments abound. You get to teach your children all the important things you want them to learn. Sure, there are no days off or summer vacations in store for decades, depending on the age of your little one/s, but imagine what amazing human beings you are helping to create!

Being stellar SAHMs are big shoes to fill. Not just anyone is up to the task; not everyone has the patience or the stamina it requires. Think triathlon here, but more—much more.

To put it simply, being a SAHM is one of the most important careers in the world. Let’s take a look at why this is so.

1. Your Child Is Always With Someone Who Loves Them

When your children are home with you, they are loved 24/7. They are happy and comforted.

In a daycare facility, the most important person in your life will be with someone who is just doing their job. They’re there for the paycheck, not because they love your child.

As you know, there are good and bad employees. You won’t necessarily know if your child is with a great employee or with one who is half paying attention to one of the most highly-treasured people in your life.

2. You Don’t Have to Deal With Office Stress and Deadlines

Working outside of your castle generally demands that you be present wherever it is you work—a hospital, a warehouse, a car dealership, an office, etc.,—when they want you to be there.

There are petty fights, nasty gossip, stressful projects, bad bosses, jealous co-workers, etc. You might often find yourself looking at the clock and waiting for the weekend.

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If you’re a SAHM, you make the rules! That alone should cause you great joy.

3. You Get to Witness Each of Your Child’s Milestones Firsthand

Think about how many milestones working moms miss. As a SAHM, you get to be there. You get to take those pictures, those videos, and see your little one grow up—in person, not via Nanny Cam! And if you’re children are middle-school-age and older, you get to keep an eye on them when they get home from school.

In an article in the American Journal of Nursing Science, it states that:[1]

“Economic and social pressures are forcing more parents into the workplace at a time when children appear to most need adult guidance and supervision. These children, in turn, face a growing number of problems such as physical and sexual abuse, crime and delinquency, depression and suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, emotional and behavioral problems, learning difficulties, school attendance problems, domestic violence, pregnancy, abortion, and venereal disease.

Many “latchkey” children experience stressful and even dangerous situations without ready access to adult guidance and support. It is estimated that as many as 10 million children care for themselves before or after school. Many latchkey kids begin their self-care responsibilities at about 8 years of age.”

4. Your Child Gets to Grow Up in Their Castle With a Queen Who Loves Them

When you’re home with your child, you provide love and comfort. That makes for a happy child and eventually, a happy adult. True, some adults were raised with their queen and don’t fare well, but in those rare cases, there are other factors involved, too numerous to list here.

In general, children do better when they know they are loved and cared for. And for children, the presence that would create stability and warm-fuzzy feelings is Mom!

5. Your Child Will Grow Up Feeling Happy, Safe, and Secure

Personally, I grew up with a SAHM. My mom was always around. We knew we could count on her for anything. She’d keep the house clean, cook great meals, and take us swimming in the summers.

I have very happy memories. I always felt secure and loved. And when my dad would get home after work, the family was complete. Fun times! If you are a good, caring mom, the best gift you can give your children is YOU!

Creating happy children is one of the biggest successes you can experience.

6. Your Child’s School Performance Will Improve

Research shows that there are excellent benefits to children staying at home, such as an increase in school performance. Those benefits extend way beyond the early years of that child’s life.

Did you know that homeschoolers generally score 15 to 30% points above public school students on a standardized test?

In the article, Does Being a Stay at Home Home Benefit Your Kids?, it states:[2]

“A British study in the ‘Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health’ reported that children of stay-at home-mothers are more likely to participate in organized sports than those whose mothers worked, possibly because their mothers had more time to take them to sports practices.

Other studies have found that children of stay-at-home moms were exposed to fewer germs and suffered from fewer illnesses. In addition, stay-at-home moms can have more time to prepare healthier foods and they rely less on convenience foods, partially for financial reasons.”

It’s Normal to Feel Iffy at First

Even after having read the six above-mentioned amazing reasons to stay at home, you might still feel iffy about it. Not because you don’t love your children but because you feel you will lose yourself—your identity.

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It’s understandable to feel that way. Shifting your perspective is key here. Staying at home doesn’t have to go hand-in-hand with losing your identity. You simply add to it; it’s another layer, another facet of who you are.

In the beginning, you may need to make some adjustments, but isn’t life, in general, an adjustment? Things are happening every day that oblige us to change course and go with the flow.

How to Be a Successful Stay-at-Home Mom

If you decide, that yes, you are going to stay home with your child but aren’t sure how to navigate the new waters without completely losing yourself, allow me to offer you some ideas that will make your experience an exceptionally happy one.

By following through with the suggestions below, you will feel successful, happy, and ready to tackle anything that comes your way.

Here are some tips on how to be a successful stay-at-home mom:

1. Wake Up Early!

Some SAHMs complain that they don’t have enough time for themselves. Valid point. Try getting up early, before the kids do.[3] This is the first thing that you should keep in mind if you want to be a successful stay-at-home mom.

Being up before everyone else offers you alone time to get some personal things done. The house is quiet and peaceful—the perfect setting to do what you need to do. That could be taking an uninterrupted warm shower, reading passages from your favorite book, having a cup of coffee while streaming one of your favorite shows or movies, writing emails, etc.

Waking up early offers you many opportunities to do what you need to do so that you don’t feel as though you’re missing out.

2. Dress Up!

No, I don’t mean dress up like you’re going out dancing, but you don’t have to be in your pajamas or sweats all day, either. How you dress makes a difference in your mood—on how you feel. So, dress casually but nicely.

In an article by Corina, How to be a Stylish Stay at Home Mom Without Compromising Comfort, she writes, “You don’t need a ton of clothes! Stick with what fits you well and makes you feel pretty without much fuss.”[4]

You can be at home and still dress to impress. You will feel so much better about yourself.

3. Exercise and Have Fun With Your Kids!

Taking care of your little ones doesn’t mean you give up on yourself. Take some time during the day to exercise. It will keep you strong, toned, and happy.

Have the children join you, and make it amusing by playing some fun workout music. They’ll use up a lot of energy and enjoy the time with you simultaneously.

Here’s an example of a mom who’s having a lot of fun with her kids as well as entertaining her audience. Watch Sophie Ellis-Bextor on YouTube.[5]

What a fun thing to do with your kids!

4. Schedule Weekly Outings!

To add excitement to your week, plan a weekly outing to the zoo, the botanical gardens, the library, the park, etc.

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Of course, at this point, the outings depend on personal safety and each state’s guidelines, so you’ll have to check on that. But bike rides around the neighborhood and picnics will work just as well.

If it’s too difficult to get out for whatever reason, there are many fun things you can do at home, pandemic or not. You can schedule a Stay At Home FUN DAY! Making a fun environment for your children is important in being a successful stay-at-home mom.

In an article by Andrea Browne Taylor, 16 Free or Cheap Things to Do With Your Kids During the COVID-19 Pandemic, she lists many activities to do with your kids.[6] Even I want to do these!

5. Establish a Break

During the day, it’s important to set aside some time to do something quiet; perhaps set aside 20-30 minutes to read, color, etc.

During this break, each person can do something they personally enjoy. Encourage your kids to get creative. Research shows that creative activities, such as art, are wonderful for children.

In her article, Why Art and Creativity are Important, Paula Bernstein states,[7]

“Fostering creativity won’t just increase your child’s chances of becoming the next Picasso. You’re also helping him develop mentally, socially, and emotionally, says Ecklund-Flores.”

And for you, pick up that hobby you put on the back burner. Whether it is painting, crocheting, knitting, writing, whatever, use that time to get some creative YOU time in! You are going to feel so much happier and accomplished afterward.

6. Make Your Castle a Beautiful Living Space!

Decorate your home in a way that is soothing to you. Choose the colors, the decor, the furniture, the pictures, the artwork, the plants, etc. that make you feel at peace in your own castle.

Play music that is both calming and energizing. Living in a space you love and find comforting makes all the difference in the world. If you create a happy environment, you’ll feel happier, and so will your children.

For ways to make your home a happier place, check out Olivia Heath’s article, 8 ways to make your home a happier place.[8]

7. Set Up a Routine!

Most people respond well to a routine. For instance, from 8 – 9, breakfast and cartoons; from 9 – 12. chores and homework; from 12 – 1:00 p.m., lunch. After that, nap time, if appropriate, or personal time.

The routine, of course, will be based on the age of your children and your own personal views. According to a Skilled at Life article:

Setting up a routine “creates structure in our lives. a daily routine provides structure and a logical sequence in our lives. It provides the framework within which we live our lives and conduct our daily activities. Soon we become familiar and comfortable with what we have to do each day. It allows us to experience a flow to our day.”((Skilled at Life: 18 Reasons Why a Daily Routine Is So Important))

As a SAHM, you’ll benefit from the routine and take comfort in knowing what to expect. This is the time for you to incorporate anything into your daily routine that makes you feel relaxed, happy, and stress-free.

8. Meet Up With Other SAHMs

Meeting up with other SAHMs will provide you with support. Additionally, the kids get to socialize with other children and you with other like-minded moms.

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Not working outside the home sometimes can feel isolating, so talking to other adults is a nice treat. Below, I included a link to help you find just the group for you! Check it out.

9. Hire a Babysitter!

Sometimes you might like to go out with friends, get pampered at a spa, or what-have-you. A babysitter or a trusted family member can help with that.

These little breaks can be the fuel you need to keep going. It’s like getting a mini-vacation. It’s revitalizing. Once you get home from your spa treatment or the movie you saw with your friends, you will have renewed energy. You can now refocus on your castle tasks. And remember, a happy mom, makes for a happy child!

Final Thoughts

As a SAHM, you might make the mistake of thinking that if you don’t bring home a paycheck, you’re not valuable or helping with the household expenses. You’re actually helping more than you think.

You don’t need a paycheck to add value to who you are. You are already one of the most valued members of society. You’re watching over human lives—your children—making sure they are safe, healthy, and happy. And as far as expenses go, you will be saving on daycare costs and transportation expenses.

If after reading all these amazing things about being a SAHM, you’re still conflicted, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s not for everyone.

As I mentioned above, staying at home can be challenging. And in all honesty, it can have its drawbacks. That’s also why I provided you here some tips on how to be a successful stay-at-home mom.

For example, being at home with your children all the time can make you feel a little depressed or bored. You might not feel like you’re being stimulated by life or adult-like situations. Maybe some of the hobbies you used to enjoy get neglected, or you might feel financially dependent on your husband.

Furthermore, you might think you’ll lose all your abilities; the opportunity to utilize the educational training you received. Or maybe you miss the ritual of getting dressed, driving to work, and being around other people who are doing similar things. That’s all valid.

Only you can make that decision. While you’re thinking about it, though, let me remind you that as a SAHM you will be missing some things. But you’ll be gaining so much more.

Doing a presentation at work may get you kudos and accolades, but hearing the words, “I love you, mommy” is priceless. Watching your children grow up before your very eyes? Priceless. Making sure they’re safe and sound with you loving them all day? Priceless.

There is no other job in the world with those kinds of benefits. As a SAHM, you are the heart and soul of your castle.

Remember, too, that your children will grow up. You won’t have to wait until you’re 65 to retire. And although your job as Mom will never be done, you’ll be able to do many things that you didn’t get to do while on active duty.

When you are “done,” you will have the satisfaction of having accomplished an amazing feat. You can feel proud because success like that isn’t easy to come by.

The title of Stay-at-Home-Mom, despite what any group might say, is a powerful and inspiring one.

Are you up to the challenge?

Want to know more about being a successful stay-at-home mom and its benefits? Check these out:

More Tips for Stay-at-Home Moms

Featured photo credit: Alexander Dummer via unsplash.com

Reference

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