New Relationships: What your kids need
Just because you’re a single dad doesn’t mean you have to be single. But dating again after a relationship break down can be tricky for all concerned – especially your kids. Dan Roberts looks into how to help them accept a new woman in their life...
Having been a single dad for nine years, I know only too well how tricky it can be to combine a rewarding love life with the needs of your children. It’s only natural that, after a healthy period of mourning for your old relationship, you should start dating again.
It’s also natural that your kids should find this difficult, perhaps resenting new girlfriends because they’re not their mum; that the new girlfriends should have some issues about taking on a man with kids and an ex; and that your child's mother should worry about new women entering her children’s life.
In short, it’s a potential minefield. To help you negotiate it safely, I asked Relate counsellor Mo Kurimbokus for advice – and spoke to some single dads to see how they juggle kids, new partners and their child's mum.
What your kids need
The most vulnerable people in this situation are your kids. Whatever the reasons for your breakup with their mum, they will be hurt, confused and possibly angry with you both.
"Remember that your children will be going through a bereavement process after the end of their parents relationship,"says Mo. "When you first start seeing another woman it’s a good idea to speak to the kids, let them know there’s somebody else in their father’s life and find out how they feel about it."
- Tell your kids that this new person is not there to replace their mum. She is an addition to the family, someone they can form a friendship with or even look to as a mum if they want, but she will never try to replace her.
- Keep introductions light and take things slowly at first. Don’t expect too much from your kids, or force them to spend time with your new girlfriend if it seems uncomfortable for them.
- Expect some acting out. They may well feel angry or bitter towards your new girlfriend. This is perfectly normal, so try to put yourself in their shoes and don’t punish them for it.
A Dad's Story
"After my separation, once I had lifted myself off the floor, I started dating again. I've only introduced two women to my six-year-old daughter, one a childhood friend and another my current girlfriend. She loves having the adult female company around, and latches on to them in a very affectionate way."
"But it can be rough on a relationship when your partner sees you putting your daughter first in some decisions. Some girlfriends have been more understanding than others. I think it’s best to be upfront about these things, however, to avoid misunderstandings down the road." - Grant Rennell