Dating after a divorce can be exciting. You're on your own for the first time, rediscovering yourself and your needs. You're meeting new people and forming new relationships, and you're finally happy. If you have kids, though, it's important to note that you aren't the only one to think of when you begin post-divorce dating.
There are many obstacles you have to overcome when introducing a new boyfriend into your children's lives. Kids are fiercely loyal to their parents, and a new man can make them feel threatened, like it's a betrayal to their father and the life they've grown up with. It also threatens the time and attention they get from their mothers, making them feel neglected and left out. In addition, children are always holding out for their parents to reunite; a new boyfriend just cements the fact that it's not going to happen.
Make sure you take time in introducing your kids to your new mate. It won't be a quick or painless process, but if you take it slow and are calculated in how your kids are exposed to them, a good relationship will develop over time. Here are some tips for introducing your children to your new man:
Make the Initial Meeting Fun
It's important that the first time your kids meet your boyfriend, they don't feel pressured or threatened. Introduce them in a fun, light-hearted environment, like the zoo, a park or a game of laser tag. Make the outing something that's enjoyable for your kids, so when they think of your new guy, they equate it with happiness and fun.
Don't get too serious in the first couple of meetings. Your boyfriend should talk to your kids as friends, taking interest in their lives, having fun with them and developing a good solid foundation. There should be no serious or future-related conversations in the beginning. Keep it light.
Reaffirm your Love for them
Kids often feel threatened by the presence of a new man. Not only does this man mean their dad is definitely not coming back, but it also means that they aren't the only ones in their mom's life anymore.
Children often feel neglected or replaced when their mother starts spending time with a significant other. Going out without them and showing love for someone else makes them feel like less of a priority in your life. Affirm your love for them while you're dating. Make sure they know you will always be there for them and that you do not love them any less just because you have a new man in your life.
Stray from the PDA
PDA (public display of affection) is an outright threat to children. Until this point, your kids have only seen you kiss one man - their father. To see you kiss a new man whom they barely know is just going to confuse and frighten them.
Save the PDA until your children know your new boyfriend and are comfortable around him. Once your kids are comfortable hugging your new man or holding his hand, you can be, too.
Don't be the Dad
Make sure your man doesn't play into the "father" role when meeting your kids the first couple of times. That means no discipline and no overt signs of affection. Pressuring them to see your new boyfriend as a father is only going to backfire, bringing up feelings of loyalty to their father.
Give your children time to get to know your man before letting them see him as a father-type figure. Over time, they will adjust to your guy's presence and this will fall into place.
Focus on Small Doses
Don't overwhelm your children. Let them meet your boyfriend in small, short doses - not for full days at a time. Give them time to process this new person in their lives and form their own opinions and ideas about the relationship. This will allow them time to ask you questions and discuss any concerns with you.
This also ensures your kids don't feel left out or neglected by all the time you're spending with your new man.
Children are fiercely protective of their mothers, so make sure your man keeps this in mind when spending time around you and your kids. One unkind word or mean look sent in your direction could anger and upset your children, forever changing the way they see him.
Tell your guy not to argue with you in front of them. If he needs to discuss something, ask him to save it for later, when the two of you are alone. Doing so in front of the kids will cause them to come to your defense or attack him. Neither of which are good for a budding relationship.
A little bribery never hurt anyone. Encourage your new guy to bring gifts or treats to your kids the first few times when meeting them. This will give them good memories of him, and make them want to see him again.
It could be a small toy they've been wanting, their favorite candy, or just buying them dessert at dinner. Anything that equates a "good" or "fun" feeling with your new guy is a smart move.
Have Candid Conversations
Let your kids know they can talk to you about any questions or concerns they may have. In turn, make sure your kids know what your needs and wants are, and what your motivation for beginning to date again is. Tell them what your end goal is - happiness for both you and them.
If you're recently divorced and are starting to date, it's important to take time in introducing your children and your new boyfriend. Kids often feel threatened and angered by the presence of a new man in their mother's lives, so take steps to prevent that.
Make introductions fun, and don't overwhelm them. Have frank discussions, and make sure they know you're there for them and love them unconditionally. Give them time to process the changes in their lives, and soon enough, the pieces will fall into place.