Friday, June 17, 2011

Dating and Your Kids: Be Smart

Of course you’re going to date.  Sometime.  The question of how to deal with the kids is common.  As usual in psychological matters, there are not hard and fast rules.  Every family is different.  Each relationship has its own challenges.

Be smart and think things through.  My suggestions for things to consider:

1.  What they need from you is going to be highly specific to your children, their ages, their maturity level, and how much they’re hurting.

2.  Consider your emotional resources.  New relationships are demanding.  Kids come first.  After the kids, your job and other people in your life, how much do you have left for new relationships?  Plan accordingly.

3.  Look for red flags in new relationship.  You know, the things that give you that oh no feeling, that trigger concerns, that you try to overlook because you feel needy.  With kids it’s especially important to pay attention to listen to your intuition and make decisions about new people accordingly.

4.  Everyone knows not to introduce children to new relationships too early.  There’s no point in allowing them to get attached when it’s not something you’re sure about.  There’s no point to have a revolving door of dates that your children consider as potential step-parents.  Of course, there are no guarantees, so you have to take a chance at some point.

5.  Be honest.  Don’t tell your kids that someone’s just a friend if they’re not.  Kids are smart.  Like adults, when they’re lied to, they have trouble trusting.  This doesn’t mean providing too much information when it’s not asked for.  But if asked, be honest and tell the truth.

6.  What if your kids reject your new person?  This is a highly individual decision as well.  Some people will not pursue a relationship if the kids are uncomfortable with it (see the movie Cyrus for an amusing, entertaining and extreme example).  You have to decide if your kids are being reasonable (perhaps picking up on one of the red flags you’re ignoring), or if they’re just not ready.  And if they’re not ready, then what?  You decide.  Taking it slower, limiting “family time” with the new person or ending the relationship are all possibilities.

There’s a lot to think about.  Being smart, or we might say, intentional, and being honest are my best recommendations.  And, of course, having fun is very important!

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