How to Tell Your Child You’re Dating After Divorce

How to Tell Your Child You’re Dating After Divorce

Many children of divorced parents dream that their mom and dad will get back together again. It’s a common thread. The stresses and trauma of a divorce make them envy the kids at school who look as if they are living happily ever after, just like on television. Your children don’t understand that they will fare better in a happy, secure one-parent household than in a dysfunctional home with two unhappy parents.

However long it takes, your kids will eventually adjust to their new circumstances. But they will still dream of that united family. Their unwillingness to accept the divorce is why children take it so badly when their mother, whom they may live with, starts dating again. The thought of an interloper is enough to set them back.

The New Normal: Life after Divorce

When you give birth to your first child, you have no idea how your life will change. Your parents, friends, and pre-natal classes don’t fully prepare you for what you’re about to experience. You can’t imagine the responsibilities you’re taking on, and how most of your priorities will come second so that your baby comes first. Most likely, your household will be strewn with toys, bottles, nappies, and a disconcerted husband getting used to taking second place.

Once you get divorced, this mini battlefield has another band of little soldiers. Each child has their own set of insecurities, and it takes them a while to get used to the New Normal, where Mom is the head of the household in her house and Dad the head of the household in his.

Interestingly enough, statistics indicate that more than a million American children suffer every year when their parents divorce. Half of those children are under the age of 18. But there is a bright side…

Research shows that “Children who are removed from the most dysfunctional environments are more likely to do better after the divorce.”

If you thought putting your needs in second place was a shock when you first had your child, this triples when you’re the single parent in charge of your home. Of course, the reality is that you’re a single adult who deserves a full life, which includes a relationship with a partner. But that journey requires patience, understanding, and some firmness so that you also get a chance to be happy.

Consider reading, “Divorce Effects on Children: What You Must Know.”

The Dating Game: How to Tell Your Child You Are Dating After Divorce

Your Ex is often the first to start dating. Studies have shown that men partner up faster than women post-divorce.

In my case, my Ex had numerous girlfriends. My four-year-old took ‘Daddy’s friends’ in her stride. As she was so young, they didn’t faze her, although this changed when her dad started living with the woman who became his second wife.

Circumstances were different for me. I had many friends, male and female, and she was used to seeing me with them all. They would come over for dinner, we’d visit them, go on holidays together… But she never woke up with another man in Mommy’s bed.

Until she was 12, my daughter slept in my bed. She only moved into her room when I threatened to rent it out because it wasn’t being used. She never had to experience a man staying over, and she never had to get used to someone replacing her Dad.

Ready to move on? Read all about “Life After Divorce: 6 Dating Tips on How to Show Up”

But for many women, it isn’t that simple. My friend Melanie, who was 39 when she divorced, started dating soon after. Her 8-year-old didn’t take it well. “I was lucky that she adored my sister Beth and her husband, Jeremy. I’d arrange for her to spend the night with them when I was on a date. But she didn’t take me dating or our separation lightly, as my Ex had been a hands-on Dad, and she missed him terribly.”

Isabel said her son Dennis,14, wasn’t fazed when she started dating at 48, 2 years after the divorce. “I explained that I wanted to have a life of my own. He seemed to understand, possibly because my Ex was already dating someone seriously. Dennis also had a busy social life, which made it much easier.”

How to Tell Your Child You Are Dating after Divorce #2

 Melanie, now 60, recently divorced her second husband after 25 years and has started dating again. Her daughter, who is 34, has a completely different outlook on her mother dating this time, compared to how she reacted when she was little.

“Amanda is old enough to understand that I need company,” Melanie explains. “I’ve always had a very active social life, and now that I’m divorced, this isn’t going to change. Having seen me through both divorces, she realizes that this is a traumatic time for me, even though my current Ex and I remain good friends.”

“So she’s been very understanding – a shoulder to cry on. Although Amanda lives in LA, she returned to Connecticut to spend time with me. It was wonderful to have someone to lean on. It made a huge difference.”

Melanie is not alone. Plenty of mothers out there are dating after a second or third divorce. And, as their children are now older than they were when their parents originally divorced, their reactions are different. They can look back on Mom’s second marriage and are more equipped to get through a divorce the second time.

If you wonder how long it will take for you to heal (forget dating!), you will want to read How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Divorce? And 4 Signs You are On Your Way

There’s No “Right” Way to Break the News

How to tell your child you’re dating after divorce depends on you. It varies from person to person. You’ll want to remember your child’s age and not overwhelm them with information. When you broach the subject, remember: your child will pick up if you’re nervous or agitated. Keep your power in this situation. Be as matter-of-fact as you can. Don’t make out that it’s a big deal.

Of course, dating after divorce is a big deal. And it’s hard for you to downplay its importance. But remember to choose your words carefully and to make sure your child feels that whoever this new person is, your child is still incredibly important to you.


Sharon Preston is a writer and editor. She has edited numerous lifestyle magazines and ghostwritten several books. She lives in a cottage in Johannesburg, South Africa with her two cats. You can connect with Sharon here:


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*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

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