When parents date, it often creates anxiety in children and teens. The changes and losses children have experienced may cause them to feel jealous and insecure. They may become uncooperative, withdrawn, and rebellious or over-attached to you, the parent. Each child, depending on age and personality, will react differently to dating, but it is important to understand that most kids struggle with two main feelings: Children fantasize that their parents will be reunited, so they don’t want their other parent replaced; and children fear losing your love and attention and believe they will become less important.
These strong feelings are seldom expressed openly, so it’s critical to be prepared and act in a way that helps your kids adjust to your dating and share their feelings.
Here are seven ways you can ease your child’s concerns and anxiety:
1. Keep them close. Give your children reassurance that they are loved and your relationship with them will not change. A child who feels secure is less likely to feel frightened. Now is the time to set aside special time with each child, even if it is only 15 minutes a day. Quality time tells the child you are paying attention and he or she is important. This time is for them; do not burden your children with adult issues or adult feelings. Don’t use them as surrogate partners, friends, or little therapists.
2. Hear them out. Allow your children to express all of their feelings about your dating, positive or negative. Listen and show concern, and do not be reactive by yelling, judging, or criticizing. They can better adjust to the situation if they feel their needs and sensitivities are being recognized. Helping them to express their anger or frustration without doing damage is the goal. Once they are allowed to express their feelings they are more likely not to act out inappropriately.