By Dr. Joy Browne
Divorce is never fun. Not for the parents going through it, and not for the kids living through it. How parents choose to handle dating after divorce, however, can make a big difference to everyone involved. Dr. Joy Browne, a nationally syndicated talk show host and licensed psychologist, has some advice for divorced parents of teens on easing back into dating.
Staying Together For the Kids Isn’t Necessarily Better. Sometimes parents have the idea that they should stay together for the kids. Really, this is self-serving. Sometimes divorce is inevitable. Just try to remember how it feels to a child when his or her parents are angry or unhappy. It doesn’t make them feel safe or secure or happy. Sometimes divorce provides greater stability.
The One-Year Rule. I recommend not dating for one full year after the divorce is final. Period. People have been known to go back and forth, so begin the count from when the divorce is finalized. And when kids are involved, adults should take a step back and focus on their own needs and the needs of the kids without being distracted by love affairs. Give the kids your undivided attention for that year. Kids should not have to deal with their parent’s sexuality at the same time that they are going through adolescence and dealing with their own. Once you have met the one-year rule, then you can hang from the chandelier and I don’t care. But you need adult stability before you begin to date again.
Keep Your Kids Out of Your Dating Life. After the one-year mark, parents can date. But not when the kids are around. Don’t have partners staying over. Don’t have family dates. I’m not a fan of families going camping together for the weekend before you are married. During this time, until you are absolutely certain that this person is going to be in your life, not just for a couple of months, but for the foreseeable future and there is some kind of commitment, don’t get the kids involved. Kids get attached, and they don’t really understand dating, especially if they are having trouble getting over the divorce.
Kids Can Be Disruptive to Adult Relationships. Sometimes kids can be very divisive. Kids always know which parent to go to first when they want something, and how to play parents off each other. Kids can be very disruptive to adult relationships. In divorce situations, especially when one of the parents has begun to date again or has remarried and there is a newcomer in the mix, a kid will be a lot more committed to one adult than the other. It can be very easy to undermine the other adult, to act out, to say, “He’s mean to me,” etc. Kids may attempt to interfere with adult relationships. Do not give them veto power over who you date or marry, or who your ex dates.
No Kids On Dates. Once you are divorced, and doing all the right things, being a good co-parent, not bad mouthing the other parent, you can start going out on dates again. Do not take your kid with you. Even if you have been very careful and sensible, your kid may be attracted to the person you like, or threatened, or flirtatious, and that is just asking for trouble.
Dr. Joy Browne is a nationally syndicated radio host, licensed clinical psychologist, author and movie critic. Learn more at DrJoy.com or follow her on Twitter @DrJoyBrowneShow.