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Wilburn: Keep kids in mind when dating again
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Making introductions

These ideas may be helpful when introducing and adjusting to family changes.

  • Explain that dating is similar to spending time with friends
  • Prepare your children before introducing a new date
  • Children may be confused. Let them know you're not dating because you don't like spending time with them. Rather, you need to spend time with adults who have similar interests.
  • Don't spend too much time with your new friend. As everyone gets used to one another, gradually increase the amount of time you all spend together.
  • If there are times you usually spend with your children, keep that time for them only.
  • Spend time with your children before and after your date. They will be less likely to feel your friend is taking you away from them.
  • Meet your new friend in other places, instead of always at your home.
  • If you know of something specific that upsets your child, let your date know ahead of time.

When beginning a relationship, consider:

  • Take time to listen to your child's feelings about your new relationship without being defensive - and tell your child that you understand his or her feelings.
  • Ask your child if she or he would be willing to listen to you, and why you want to spend time with your new friend.
  • Make sure your actions match your words. For example, if you tell your child you will be back from your date before he or she goes to bed, be sure to get home on time.
  • Find solutions that work for everyone; for example, you only date on weekends when your children are with your ex-spouse.
  • Above all, be patient. It will take time for your children to adjust to your having relationships with other adults.

After a separation, divorce, or the death of a loved one, it takes time to cope with feelings and move on to another relationship.

Before beginning a romance, people need to work through stages of loss from previous ones. Usually, it takes at least one to two years to resolve these feelings.

People also need time to form a new identity. One of the keys to success is to work on your emotional and psychological growth.

Remarrying is not a way to avoid loneliness. Form friendships instead of romances to help develop stability, independence, self-esteem and a sense of belonging.

Children involved in the relationship must be considered, too.

Feelings of loss, anger and hurt are common among children whose parents have separated or divorced, and children who have lost parents through death have similar emotions.

Because children lack experience, they don't know that things will get better. As a parent you can help your children. Encourage them to express feelings in acceptable ways.

But it's important to discuss and accept all of your children's feelings. They may think if they love mom or like her new boyfriend, dad won't love them. If they love dad and like his new girlfriend, mom won't love them.

They also are confused about being loyal to both parents. It's common for children to want to protect parents from pain.

When a parent begins a relationship, children often feel jealous. They may compare your new friend to their father or mother who doesn't live at home anymore. Or your children may seek a lot of attention or interrupt conversations you have with your new friend.

Remember, change rarely comes without pain. Yet it's possible to make the transitions smoother by talking with your children.

Adapted from: University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension

Debbie Wilburn is county extension agent in family and consumer science with the Hall County Extension. Her Family Ties column runs in Sunday Life on the first Sunday of each month. Contact: 770-535-8290.