Dating is complex enough, and dating with kids is no different.
Rushka Pedro is a divorce mediator and coach, and founder of Johannesburg-based mediation company Minor Impact. Here she offers advice to parents who are starting to date after a divorce or separation.
Find out more about Pedro here: Local mom gets her 'happy ever after' despite a messy divorce
Thinking of dating again? Wondering how to introduce your family to your new partner?
Here are a few guidelines:
1. Don't introduce your children to every partner. By doing this it may create confusion for your little ones.
2. Communication is vital for your children too. Help them understand what's happening.
3. Expect (don't create) resistance… A child may feel that "this new person" is stepping in to take their place.
4. Validate their feelings and hug them. Never dismiss what they are experiencing, even if they are not doing it effectively (tantrums). Be aware and manage accordingly.
5. Communicate and prepare your partner. Your child's likes and dislikes, so that they can build rapport with each other.
6. Choose an equal playing field – neutral grounds for the first interaction is good. Choose an activity instead of going out to dinner. Children get super bored very quickly.
7. Create a conversation. A child will not know how to ask or even what to say. Children of any age sometimes get stuck or it may come out wrong.
8. Continue to have get-togethers – different places, different activities.
9. Home invitation – there is no hard or fast rule. You will know when a home visit is in order.
10. Sleepovers – tricky one indeed. This one requires a well-established and healthy relationship.
There will be signs from your child that they are ready for this to happen. And when it does there needs to be a clear conversation regarding nudity. Bathroom schedules need to be implemented and adhered to.
There will be some questions or concerns about why you are sharing a room and this needs to be explained. If they have any questions, you need to be prepared to answer them.
11. Have patience… with yourself and the children. This is a journey and a process. If the pressure gets too much too quickly, slow things down and bring it back to basics.
If an ex or co-parent is still involved, keep the lines of communication open as much as possible, especially if the child is under the impression that you are replacing the other parent, which is not the case.
There may be some resistance and backlash from your child at this point and that's perfectly normal and it's to be expected.
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Blended family dynamics – there are strong personalities that are coming together. Establish the role of your partner within the family. Depending on the age of the child, this needs to be something that is established early on to avoid any miscommunication or confusion.
Keep in mind there may be "negative talk" from the other household and this is unhealthy for your child. So try to avoid negative statements about your ex and their partner(s) in the presence of your child.
This will not only confuse the situation for them, but it will reflect very badly on you.
Above all else, children can pick up on how you are feeling, so make your child happy by being happy. You deserve it!
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