Guest author, attorney and divorce coach Deborah Mecklinger writes about dating after divorce:
Why is your child not jumping for joy when they see stars in your eyes instead of tears? After months or even years of stress, sadness and loneliness – how can your child not be thrilled to see you out on a Saturday night instead of home alone reading the latest self help book on surviving divorce? If your offspring is turned off by your dating you are not alone. Your post divorce social life is a challenge to be expected when your children are asked to smile, accept or applaud the arrival of a guest they did not invite into their lives.
The following issues may precipitate your child’s aversion to your new diversion:
1. It may be that your Post Divorce Dating (PDD) extinguishes the flame in your child’s reunification fantasy – a hope and feeling many children describe as prevalent.
2. Perhaps your PDD leaves your children caught in a loyalty bind or trigger a wide range of confusing emotions they cannot handle.
3. From changes in your routine, to the time devoted to dating and its associated distractions, to simply feeling awkward at the thought of a parent as a sexual being – discomfort with parental courtship is common.
4. Your children may feel like they are less important to you. Their role, status and special place in your life may feel threatened.
5. A new haircut or color, a fresh fragrance, a unfamiliar wardrobe, a clean shave, lost weight and a new-found mate can leave children wondering where the parent they once knew disappeared to.
If PDD is part of your program consider the following beliefs and strategies to help you move forward without setting your children back:
1. Remember, your desire to date is just that – YOUR desire. Your children did not sign up for the PDD Program.
2. Your children are narcissistic and believe they are enough to meet all of your emotional needs (this is developmentally on task for children and teens).
3. Your time-sharing plan was designed for you and your EX. It was not designed for you and your new partner and your EX. They crave time with you.
4. When you decide to introduce the concept of PDD – be prepared for discomfort, resistance, anger, anxiety, sadness, curiosity, guilt, anger, ambivalence, confusion, excitement and the evolutionary cycle of the aforementioned emotional spectrum.
5. If you have more than one child, be prepared for different reactions from each child and do not expect their emotional responses to be in synch with one and other. Be sensitive to the slowest common denominator.
6. Be prepared for silence. If the child is not ready or closes the door to the conversation – be sensitive and follow the leader. In this case they lead. This does not mean that they have the right or power to close the door to PDD, but it is a signal to be sensitive to their involvement and integration.
7. Be prepared for questions. Brainstorm possible questions in advance to ensure that your answers are honest but age appropriate.
8. “Caveat Answerer” – BEWARE OF SHARING TOO MUCH INFORMATION (TMI). In particular, questions from teens and adult children are seductive. Remember that your child is not your confidante, therapist, friend or parent. Even your teen or adult child may not be prepared to handle many of the answers their questions provoke. Be careful and think before you respond. A rule of thumb is: don’t share information about your relationship that you would not share with a 10 year old. That is probably all they can handle.
9. Take it slow. If the relationship is long-term and healthy, over time, your children will develop trust, comfort, and will come to accept your new partner. If it is not a long-term relationship you will have spared them the potential loss, pain and readjustment.
10. Once integrated, regardless as to the love connection between your children and your new partner, be sure to spend time on your own with your children, maintain traditions your kids love, don’t take advantage of their generosity of spirit and desire to see you happy and check in with your children on a regular basis.
PDD is often like serving vegetables to a young child. You believe it is good for them, but the unfamiliar taste may leave them feeling uneasy and at times even queasy. A patient parent does not force feed, but rather, introduces the new experience slowly and respects the child’s right to examine the new flavor, take small bites or try it again another time. Take wisdom and patience on your PDD ride, and you will find that in time your children will be firmly planted by your side.
For more information visit: www.walkthetalkcoaching.com
Deborah Mecklinger, LL.B., M.S.W., A.T.C.
Deborah Mecklinger is a Professional Coach as well as an accomplished Lawyer and Master of Social Work. Her extensive professional and personal achievements have fueled her passion and commitment to coach others to achieve and realize their goals. Deborah walks the talk!
In addition, Deborah is an experienced Mediator and Therapist with a successful private practice in Toronto. She is well known for her exceptional work in the areas of divorce, mediation, conflict resolution, and individual, couple and family therapy. She has worked as a Coach, Mediator and Therapist at the Family Mediation & Conciliation Program in South Florida and as a Mediator and Trainer with CDR Associates in Boulder, Colorado.
Deborah has taught mediation at the University of Toronto and at Seneca College. As well, she was the Human Resource Manager at Toronto’s Sutton Place Hotel. Deborah has attended The Adler School of Professional Coaching, University of Toronto Graduate School, Osgoode Hall Law School and Oxford University.
Her unique professional skills, multi-disciplined experience and dynamic, energetic personality provide a rare combination of talent often in demand. Deborah is a frequent guest on radio and television programs and is regularly quoted in the media.