Getting into a new relationship after a divorce or separation comes with its own set of challenges. But those who have children from their past associations have to worry about more than just their own comfort level. Before putting themselves back in the dating seat, they must consider their kids’ opinions, or at least keep them in the loop about their personal life. Many times, single parents don’t realise the implications their relationships can have on their offspring.
Last month, Hollywood actor Susan Sarandon revealed that her children — Eva Amurri (31), Miles Robbins (24) and Jack Henry Robbins (27) — were shocked to learn that she had started dating someone after her split from Tim Robbins in 2009.
“It was shocking to them (her children) to see me dating, or even going out. I tell my kids: kindness and authenticity, that’s your goal. It takes a lifetime to get there, but I hope I’m closer and closer to being authentic,” she said.
Relationship experts believe that the decision to get into a new relationship after a separation must be carefully considered. For instance, how amicable the divorce was plays an important role in such cases. Relationship expert Riddhish Maru explains, “It will be difficult for your child to accept a new partner if he or she had negative feelings about your ex-husband or ex-wife. Your child may have become insecure because of the separation process.
A child needs to get over these feelings, whatever his or her age may be. Also, kids who are possessive about their parents may not want them to share their love and attention with someone else.”
Mind the gap
Maru says that a parent should make his or her child realise that the divorce didn’t happen because of the kid, but because of unavoidable circumstances. The child needs to know that not all relationships end in separation.
The age gap between your child and your new partner is important as well. Maru adds, “The situation becomes tricky if the age gap between the new partner and the child is less. The child may not be able to accept the new person as a parent if you plan to marry this man or woman at a later stage in your life. In such a scenario, a parent will have to give the child a clear explanation as to why he or she is dating that person.”
Age not stage
When it comes to disclosing to your child that you are dating someone, you need to consider your kid’s age. Children between the ages of one and six may not accept the fact that their parents are dating other people. In such a case, it is best if the single parent waits to disclose this information, till the child is old enough to understand the concept of dating.
While a child between the ages of six and 10 might understand what dating is, he or she may not be entirely comfortable with the idea. At this juncture, Maru recommends introducing the new partner as a friend. “The 11 to 17 age group is unpredictable. They may be dealing with their own complexes and guilt, and may misunderstand the situation because of the changes that they are going through as adolescents,” says Maru.
Communication, however, is vital, he says. “The child may also find out about a parent’s affair from some other source, and that can really upset him or her,” he says. Children above the age of 18, he feels, tend to be more mature, and may be able to understand the situation.
What if the child doesn’t like the person the parent is dating? Relationship counsellor Vidya Bansode says, “In such a situation, the dating partner needs to develop a bond with the child. The parent needs to make sure that the child’s needs are not ignored. Try to restore the child’s sense of security. Listen and talk to him or her. Try to understand your child’s perception of the person you are dating. Do not overlook any valid point or observation your child is trying to make.” She adds, “Help the child understand your partner’s role in your life, and assure him or her that the presence of this new person won’t change the equation you share with your daughter or son in any way. Share your fears and anxieties with your child.”
The fact is that if you are a divorcee with a kid, dating someone won’t be very easy. It’s important that parents in such situations weigh their options carefully and prioritise their child, before focusing on their partner.