Guidelines to Age-Appropriate Discussion about Single Parent Dating
As a single parent, your thoughtful preparation to talk with your children about dating after divorce is the key to a smoother adjustment for everyone. Earlier, we discussed your decision to try dating again as a single parent, as well as figuring how and when to best broach this often tricky subject with your kids.
Now, getting more specific, some guidelines on age appropriate discussion about talking about dating after divorce:
1. Pre-schoolers (ages 3-5) will be satisfied with a general and simple description that lets them know what to expect.
For example, "I'm going to see my friend. I'll be gone for a couple of hours, and you'll be sleeping when I get home."
2. School-age children (6-10) may need more information to satisfy their curiosity and help them feel more comfortable as you start dating more than just occasionally.
For example, "I'm going to have dinner with a woman/man that I met from _________. We're going to talk (or see a movie, or take a walk, or bowl, etc) for a few hours after dinner and then I'll be home.
Try not to lie about your activities, since it's likely that your kids will figure it out. You want them to know that they can count on you to be truthful, and to let them know that you are not ashamed of what you are doing. Try to reassure them that you like spending time with other adults as well as with them, just like they like playing with their friends AND being with you.
3. Pre-teens and young teens (11-14) are extremely savvy, have very big ears, and can probably tell that you aren't getting all dolled up to go out with your best friend for coffee or to watch the game at a sports bar. In fact, be prepared that if you don't initiate the subject, they might! Try a pro-active approach that invites discussion.
For example, "I'm going out on a date on Saturday evening. How do you feel about me starting to date?"
Be prepared for them to have questions, or for them to express discomfort with this development, especially if they are still upset about the divorce or have great loyalty to your ex.
5. Teens and young adults (15-20) need you to be honest and up-front with them about your actions. Invite communication about this tough subject, and give them the opportunity to react in a authentic way, even if you don't agree with their reaction.
For example, "I'm thinking about dating (or...I've started to go out on some dates). I wanted to make sure I was ready, and it feels like I'm ready now. How do you feel about that?"
Stay in your parent-role, and don't over-share, in your excitement or nervousness about the topic. As your child's most important role-model, this is a perfect opportunity to communicate about a confusing subject in a respectful way. And remember, you don't need permission to date!