Jennifer says she and her ex-husband have both began dating, a situation many divorced parents may face.
If you're a divorced parent who is considering dating, Gary has five golden rules to help you help your children get used to you dating, getting serious with a new boyfriend or girlfriend, and potentially marrying someone in gradual stages.
- Wait one year from separation before dating seriously. "Your children deserve time to adjust before yet another person comes into their lives and we mix all this up and possibly other children from that significant other," he says. "Please remember second marriages have a higher divorce rate than first marriages. It's really crucial during that year to try to look at what you've done that contributed to the failure of your marriage so that you can have a better relationship in the future."
- Let your child know when you begin dating. Gary suggests telling your children in a casual way. Here's a script you can use: "I'm going to start kind of making friends, nothing serious. I know that this might make you a little sad because you might think if I get along with somebody then me and Dad aren't getting together. But we tried our best. Dad and I aren't going to get back together regardless of whether I date or not. Most of all, look, anything that's a little bit serious, you'll be the first to know. I'm going to include you and I'm not even going to do it much when you're around because I want to spend time with you.'"
- Don't allow your child to form any relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend until you're close to a long-term commitment in the relationship. "This is one of the biggest mistakes. They've already lived through so much drama, they fall in love with these new people that come in their lives really quickly. And they're out, and they're gone, and that's it. They suffer again. We want to minimize that."
- Introduce your child with a non-threatening outing. Avoid having a big dinner or a weekend away. Instead, Gary says to try going to the park or a video arcade. "Let it happen slowly and over time. And when you do introduce them to somebody who you really feel like you're falling in love with, don't even think of getting engaged until many months because the children deserve many months to slowly get to know that person. And that is what's going to make them not hate that person, and you're going to have a much better second marriage when everyone gets along so much better."
- Preserve private time with your child away from your significant other. "There is a family history before this significant other came in. And for really a couple of years, even if another person is around, you should have some time where you and the kids go out alone without that other person," Gary says. "Don't force that person in there and now he's always around. No matter how great that person is, it's not going to work."