Divorced or widowed parents might feel excitement or hope when they return to the dating world after decades away. Parents often cannot understand why their adult children have a negative emotional response to the news that they are dating or in a new relationship. In fact, the adult children might not completely understand their own reactions. Intellectually, this adult child, of course, understands that the family unit ended when the parent was widowed or divorced—but some adult children manage to avoid psychologically confronting this fact until the parent starts seeing someone new. This is especially likely if the parent is divorced, not widowed. The adult child might have been telling himself that his parents would get back together eventually.
In fact, the adult children might not completely understand their own reactions.
When a Parent Is Dating Again
Intellectually, this adult child, of course, understands that the family unit ended when the parent was widowed or divorced—but some adult children manage to avoid psychologically confronting this fact until the parent starts seeing someone new. This is especially likely if the parent is divorced, not widowed. The adult child might have been telling himself that his parents would get back together eventually. In these cases, the adult child is looking backward and grieving the loss of the old relationship just as the parent is looking forward in excitement to a new one.
That difference in perspective virtually ensures that they will struggle to see eye to eye. Share the news that you are dating again—or that you are in a relationship—in a calm, private moment. This is an emotionally challenging situation, so be ready to take any reaction in stride.
If you find someone who you think could become a long-term partner, ask your kids if they want to meet this person rather than trying to force a first meeting.
When divorced parents start dating again
Offer the option of waiting to see whether the relationship lasts a while longer before agreeing to meet. Parents often have unrealistic expectations that their new partners will instantly become part of a happy family unit.
That almost certainly will take time if it happens at all. Dissuade your new partner from pushing too hard to form close bonds with your adult children when they do meet. Your partner should be pleasant and polite but should let your adult children take the lead in these relationships. Continue to find as much time as possible for your adult children and your grandchildren—ideally without a date by your side.
When parents of adult children start spending time dating, they often spend less time with their children and grandchildren. Reassure your adult children that your money is safe. Relatively savvy people sometimes do fall victim to dating scams, and when they do, their entire families can pay the price.
Or you could agree to work with an estate planner or some other trusted financial adviser to make sure that your money remains in your family. Reminisce with your adult children about the old days when your original family was intact.
This subtly reinforces the sense that your search for a new relationship does not invalidate the family unit of their youth.
Do not discuss your sex life with your adult kids.Dating After Divorce: Single Parent Problems: Dating advice for women
It is surprisingly common for parents to share details about their revitalized sex lives with their adult children when they return to the dating scene. Children may feel they have been abandoned again and experience a renewed loss when parents spend time with another adult.
Finding extra time for the child while seeing a new person is difficult, but important.
Children may feel anger at being forced by adults to make another adjustment. How children act out this anger depends on their developmental stage. Clear and sensitive communication is the key to helping children cope with the adjustment. Children may feel anger that parents have their own rules for sexual behaviour and enforce what may seem like different rules for their children.
Teenagers are especially likely to feel that while they have curfews or have to date people their parents know and approve of, their parents seem to follow a different standard. Explain that there are two sets of rules — one for adults and one for teenagers — and explain why this is so. Children may feel anger at the loss of privacy. Children need space they can call their own. Whatever the circumstances, dating may trigger emotions that are similar for both parents and children.
They may be fearful of being hurt again, worry that they may not be loved by the new person, and have concerns about how the new person will fit into their lives. Parents can use this new situation as an opportunity to talk about how adults — just like children — need peer interaction with people their own age, and supportive relationships. If the marriage ends after one parent leaves the relationship for another partner, children may feel particularly betrayed and angry.
Children in these families will need plenty of opportunities to express their confusion and feelings — a difficult task for a parent who may be experiencing similar emotions. It is important that new partners respect that space and treat children as individuals in their own right. Divorce is a very challenging situation for all family members.