Children as Gatekeepers?
You watched your children grow, and remember their dating years as if they were yesterday. From going steady in high school to each one of their college sweethearts, you observed with an anxious eye, trying to protect them from heartbreak or settling for less than they deserve. Some nights you lay awake with angst and certain people they brought home to "meet the folks" sent shivers down your spine. But in the end what mattered most was your blessing; it's only natural for a child to wants a parent's approval.
Strangely, the tables have turned. It can happen suddenly or once the kids have grown up and moved on, but eventually single parents with children start dating...and their love life becomes a family affair.
When Benjamin Fisher's wife passed away after suffering from ovarian cancer for more than 5 years, the 64 year old widower never imagined he would fall in love again. But less than a year to the date of his wife's death Fisher reconnected with an old college girlfriend. Both were widowers suffering from the same tragedy and a friendship quickly ensued. But while Fisher was grateful to find a mate at this stage in life, his family did not share in his happiness. For his grown children the transition came too soon after their own mother's death. And they were not alone, as friends and relatives gradually distanced themselves too.
Fisher is not alone in his struggle. In fact, according to the National Step Family Resource Center about 75% of divorced persons eventually remarry and 65% of all remarriages involve children from the prior marriage. So adding that new person to the mix, particularly when it happens so soon after a loss or split, can send shock waves through a family unit.
When your own children are the gatekeepers to your love life, what is the key to opening that gate?
Make Sure to Select Wisely: Remember how Paul McCartney's daughter Stella reacted when the music legend start dating Heather Mills? While you may want what's best for you, the onus of doing what's best for the kids still rests upon you if their approval matters to you. To avoid the drama stay away from trigger situations, like dating someone who is younger than your own kids, and stick to people who will fit in with the whole family.
Keep Personal Matters Private: When it comes to your love life, there are parent child boundaries that must be respected. Showing up at every holiday gathering with a new fling can cause conflict among the most peaceful dynasty. So if you are actively dating, it's best to keep personal matters private until your romantic intentions are serious, even if it sometimes it means putting your own happiness aside for a while.
Time it Right: When it comes to their parents, children no matter how old, cannot be expected to grow up in adult time. Everyone heals at a different pace so be sure to give your children due amount of time to mourn a failed marriage or death and adjust to the changed circumstances before making any introductions.
Break It to Them Gently: Good news spreads quickly so it's very easy and can be damaging for your kids if they get wind of your relationship from a third party. Make sure that if and when you do go out in the open with your relationship that your children are the first to find out about it. Depending on the circumstances, it may be a good idea to have a professional counselor present so that your children have room to ask questions and react emotionally.
Maintain Your Relationship: The most important thing a single parent can do is to keep treating their children the same way they did before they met their new partner. So keep reminding them, no matter how old, that they are still your first priority and make sure to maintain obligations and make room for family time without having your partner present.
By Helen Howard of SingleEdition.com for OurTime.com
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