Welcome to our continuing series: Who Moved My Happily-Ever-After. Today’s segment, Tips for Single Parents: Playing the Dating Game is definitely a great topic. It certainly does arise many thoughts, emotions and possibilities, and can be a major factor that both parents and children may face.
Karyn Lynn Grant is once again joining us. Thank you so much Karyn. Great to have you back.
Undoubtedly you have valuable insights and tips to share with us. What an interesting and necessary series and topic. Many could use guidance, insight and direction, without question.
Karyn: Thank you for having me. I’m excited to share.
Carol: Let’s jump right in. Many single parents often find it challenging to introduce a new partner to their children. Could you shed some light on this?
Karyn: For young children, teens and even adult children, seeing the lovelight gleam in one of their parents eyes for a different partner, other than their own original set of parents, can be confusing, heart-wrenching and grievous to say the least.
When the time arrives, (preferably after the divorce is final), you may still sense that it is premature to introduce your new partner to your children (of any age group). In other words, you may be ready sooner than your children are for you to become emotionally involved with someone other than their very own Dad or Mom.
Children usually are baffled by the onset of their parents divorcing in the first place and need time to grieve the absence of their parents as their preferred couple of choice.
Carol: That makes sense. What advice do you have for single parents when it comes to introducing a new romantic interest to their children?
Karyn: To introduce a new friend or a fresh romantic interest to your children shortly after the divorce, or even before it’s final, can be met with resistance and even anger, no matter how charming your next Prince or Princess is to you.
On the other hand, young children may be become prematurely attached to a new suitor only to discover that this new romantic interest is a short-lived, rebound experience which only adds a heap of heartache to the child’s heart. Some hungry hearted children become prematurely attached to a potential fly-by-night relationship only to reap a new world of disappointment.
Carol: Karyn, would you like to offer some guidelines for parents to consider to recreate a safe haven for their children following a break-up or divorce?
Karyn: Yes, absolutely.
1. If you introduce a new romantic interest to your child, be sure to keep the first signs of affection aimed at your child or children. Children can take offense when they see Mom or Dad displaying any degree of physical affection towards another potential partner or spouse other than their own parent.
2. Try to balance the time you spend in your new relationship. Keep one-on-one quality time with your children a high priority without involving your new interest.
3. By taking a new relationship slow and by showing your children that you have their best interests at heart, this will serve you later if your new relationship becomes more serious in the future. Children are less likely to be clingy or resentful of your new relationship if you show them how much they matter to you.
4. Children will most assuredly ride the emotional roller coaster as either of both of their parents are swinging in and out of other relationships. If they sense either of you are miserable because of something Mr. or Ms. So-n-So said or did that wounded or broke your heart, you may find them resenting your new relationships.
5. Try to keep the highs and lows of a newly budding romance confidential. Too often parents may turn to their children for empathy, compassion and comfort because a new relationship didn’t work out as planned. Your child/children are not your therapists. They do not have the life experience, emotional maturity or unbiased perspective to give you parental guidance or counsel. (Seek professional help where needed.)
6. Don’t cry on your child’s shoulder when you relapse into those stages of grief when you are missing, yearning or aching for “what might have been” with your former spouse. Facing the after-math of a parents’ divorce is hard enough on any child of any age. Again, seek out professional help.
7. Protect your children from getting on and off your “marry-go-round” when those painful times of vacillating between all the “what ifs” start arising in your heart and mind. Keep a journal where you can pour out your feelings on paper as you try to make sense of the senseless.
8. Continue to work towards recreating a safe haven for your children following your break-up, separation and/or divorce. As you work towards redefining your parental role in creating a “happier-here-and-now” for your children, remember that young children, as well as teens, are still dependent upon their parents to provide them nurturing and protection. While they are adjusting to a new family dynamic without the familiarity of both parents in the home, be sure to focus first on creating a stable, happy and healthy environment.
Carol: Taking it slow seems to be key as this can most definitely be an emotional roller coaster for all involved. Great advice. Such crucial points. Thank you for all you’ve shared today. Your advice will undoubtedly help many single parents navigate the dating game while prioritizing their children’s well-being.
Karyn: It’s true that hindsight can be the best teacher. Much of the wisdom that I have gleaned and am sharing today came through my own painful experiences. I have taken a great deal of time to do some much needed introspection for this interview.
I definitely feel a great deal of empathy for single parents who are in the process of redefining their own, as well as their children’s experience of “…they lived happily-ever-after” the heartache of divorce. Prioritizing your children’s happiness is the key to rewriting a happier, healthier future.