Parenting through divorce presents new and changing relationships for everyone. Adjusting to the process of letting go of the concept of the two-parent family and accepting the idea of new relationships takes time. Take the time to go slow when initiating a new relationship to give children time to deal with different lifestyles and eventually the possibility of an extended family. Rushing into dating may be viewed by your child as competition for your love and attention. Old fears of abandonment may surface as the fantasy dissolves that the divorcing parents will unite. As a result of the divorce, some children lose trust in adults and are slow to accept a new adult into their life. It is important to talk to your children about their feelings and their role in the new step-family. Communication, reassurance, and time will help your child make the needed adjustment.
Before dating, give your children enough time to adjust to the idea that mom and dad will be seeing other people. Make your activities with your date a part of a group function. Starting your social life with friends the children already know may also help them get the point that you are dating. In the beginning of a new relationship, meet your dates away from home to avoid having a number of different people in your home and your child’s life. Your child had lived through difficult changes and should not be asked to adjust to something else this significant unless it is necessary. Choose with care whom you let get close to your family. Before you introduce them, let your children know the nature of your relationship. Begin with a few short outings to take the pressure off forced conversation. If it looks as if the relationship will be long term, outings can gradually become longer. It is important to reassure your children of your love for them. They are less likely to accept someone they perceive as a threat to their relationship with you. It is crucial that they know that the person is not a replacement for their absent parent.