Online dating apps for busy professionals in the 40+ age group are very popular these days. They are considered to be an acceptable and convenient way to meet a new partner. Dating can be fun and an affirmation of the freedom you are enjoying in your newly single life. It can really help to make dating even more enjoyable for you when you know how to juggle your kids’ emotions through it all.
Happily divorced myself for a couple of years now, and dating from time to time, my perspective here is not only based on supporting my therapy clients and their families through change, but also on my personal experience of managing my own children’s emotions and expectations.
Below are seven key points which I have identified. You may wish to bear these in mind so that you too may better balance your children’s anxieties and emotions:
1. Chat with discretion
Save online messaging for times when children don’t require your attention. It’s best not to start out with your kids feeling that your attention is torn between them and someone who may have suddenly caught your eye online. When you’re starting out dating, your kids may feel insecure that they will potentially become less important in your life than a new love interest. It’s really key for their self-esteem, from the outset, that you demonstrate otherwise.
2. Keep dates private
It’s not necessary for your kids to meet everyone you date or to even know about them, for that matter. It can be usual to see different people in your search to find a true connection, and you will likely need a few dates before you decide whether or not things are worth pursuing. Searching for your Mr or Miss Right is a numbers game. Whilst dating is a fantastic opportunity to meet some really interesting people, it can be confusing for your children if they have the impression that you seem always to be out on a first date with someone different. In the early days it is worth arranging dates conveniently for when your kids are visiting your ex if, for example, you have the childcare arrangement of alternate weekends.
3. Reassure your child
Let them know that dating is usually a steady means of deepening a friendship in a process of getting to know someone. After a divorce, or if you are sadly widowed, it can be simply a necessary means to find a new romantic partner in order to find your ‘happy’ again. It’s a good idea to explain that not every new person on the scene will necessarily join your family unit. It may be a possibility in the future of course. However, reassure them that so early on, there is no need for them to worry about this or to get their hopes up.
4. Take your time
Give it some time and get to know your date first before you consider introducing children into the picture. Don’t rush it. Agree with your date a time frame of expectation to meet each others’ children, which you are both comfortable with, between say three to six months depending on how often you both see each other. When you both feel sure that you have found something you’d like to hold on to, that’s probably the right time.
In my therapy practice, it is sometimes discussed how younger children can get very excited by the prospect of someone new joining their family. This can mean they may be too quick to call you ‘mummy’ or ‘daddy.’ To avoid possible disappointment for them, it’s best to avoid this until your relationship is solid. Kids can easily feel rejected themselves when your romance ends. It’s easy to overlook this when your heart is breaking. Aim to spare them the hurt of feeling that they are being broken up with too!
5. Keep introductions brief and casual
Avoid formality as it turns everything into a big deal and creates nervousness for everyone. Make initial meetings casual and brief… a quick hello and a short top-level chat is best for starters. Take it step by step. After a few such brief meetings, introduce a drink and a chat then move on to sharing a meal together. Always let your child leave as soon as they’d like. That way they will be better able to manage their feelings and not get overwhelmed.
Gradually introduce more time and activities together over the coming weeks and months. Take it slow and check in often with how your children and your new partner are feeling.
6. Be discrete with affection and intimacy
When you are in love (or lust), it’s fair to say you can’t keep your hands off your partner. Whilst this is very healthy, it can be weird for your kids! Be considerate to your children’s feelings and don’t kiss or cuddle in front of them for a while. Let them get used to the idea of this new person being in their life first.
Keep intimacy private and be mindful that bedroom noise carries! Teenagers especially are very in tune, so limit bedroom time when they are around and save it for when they are in bed themselves. Ask your new partner not to walk around partially undressed. Tempting as it is to snuggle in for an extra cuddle, make sure you are up and dressed at a reasonable time in the morning to greet your children when they are getting ready for their day.
7. Make time for your child
With your head and heart in the clouds, it can be easy to overlook time with your child. Schedule in time to do things with your children by yourself. Ask them what they would like to do, and do that! Show them that they are as important to you as ever. You’ll send them a clear message that they still mean the world to you, even if you are starting to deepen your feelings for someone new.
By keeping mindful of the above key steps, you will help your children to adjust more easily to a new person in your life. This will mean a better outcome for everyone. I really do hope this helps you to successfully manage your children’s emotions, and that it helps them to feel as secure as possible during what can be uncertain times for everyone.
Good luck to you in your search to find that elusive spark!
Resources are available to help support you and your family if you are struggling with anxiety.
Anxiety Help for Teenage Girls