Getting back out there after you split with your kid’s dad or mom can be a tough step in the healing process. But, it’s an important step that you have to take at some point. Just because things didn’t work out with your kid’s parent does not mean that you’re doomed to live a life of unhappiness. You deserve to find love again. But, how do you tell your kids that you’re dating again? Should you tell your kids?
In this guide, we’re going to cover all of this. We’ll talk first about probably the most important decision you have to make – when you’re going to tell your kids that you’re dating. Then, we’ll talk about how you should go about telling them you’re dating again based on how old they are. All kids are different so you will have to tweak this a little for your personal situation, but the general idea will be the same.
Congrats on getting back out there and dating again. Let’s just take a little time today and make sure you handle things with your kids the right way.
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When Should You Tell Your Kids You’re Dating Someone
Deciding when to tell your kids you are dating again can be a challenge. You don’t want to tell them too early or with every date you go on because it might not be something that lasts and then you told them for nothing. But, you also don’t want to tell them too late and have them think that you are trying to hide your dating life from them.
So, when is the right time to tell your kids you’re dating someone new? Well, it’s partially going to be dependent on your kid’s age, so we will cover some of this again in the next few sections. In general, though, here’s what we think. First, you should never lie to your kids about what you are doing. You don’t have to give them all of the details, but if they ask you what you’re up to or where you’re going, you should not lie to them. So, you may end up telling them a lot sooner than you want to, but being honest is key.
Second, you shouldn’t tell them as soon as you meet someone new or have just gone on a few dates. You may be head over heels about your new love interest, but that doesn’t mean you need to tell your kids right away. Until you are dating exclusively and it’s clear that your new love interest is going to be around for a long time, you shouldn’t bring it up to your kids if you don’t have to.
Once it’s clear that your date will be around and in your life for a while, then you can start looking into telling your kids you’re dating again and then possibly start looking into introducing them. Before that, though, it’s too soon. Kids of any age don’t need to see you going through a bunch of different dates trying to find Mr. Right or Ms. Right. It’s going to be enough for them to process dealing with you dating someone other than their dad or mom.
Don’t put any added and unnecessary emotional stress on them. Wait until you are exclusive before you consider telling your kids about your new love interest. As a side note, if you are someone who jumps into exclusive relationships quickly, wait a little while before you tell your kids. Remember, don’t lie if they ask you what’s going on, but you really should make sure the relationship is going to last before you start bringing your kids into the equation.
Read: Should Your Kids Meet Your Dates?
How to Tell Your Kids (Based on Age)
What we’ve done below is given you the steps to tell your kids that you’re dating someone new broken apart by different age brackets. Keep in mind that these are not hard and fast categories. If your kid is a little more mature for their age, then the steps in the group above that might be better. If your kid struggles with emotional things, you might want to drop down an age bracket to have better results.
> 5 Years Old
If your kid is under 5 years old, you really aren’t going to have to worry about much. They’re not emotionally developed enough to even really understand what is going on, so you don’t have to be as delicate. Towards the bottom of the age bracket, you probably don’t have to tell them anything.
If they’re towards the top of the bracket, you can tell them that mommy or daddy has a new friend and you can leave it at that. Make sure that you aren’t running men or women through the house because even though they don’t really understand what is going on, they are going to see that and it will be something they remember later in life.
5-11 Years Old
This is going to be one of the tougher age brackets to tell your kids you are dating again. Why? Well, these kids are going to be old enough to understand what is going on and they may see you dating someone new as trying to replace their dad or mom who they love. They’re also not quite old enough to fully understand the logic of what’s happening, so things may be a little tricky.
Ideally, we’d say to wait as long as possible before you let kid in this age bracket know you are dating again. Again, no lying, but you can be a little strategic about what you say and how you conduct yourself to keep things under wraps. Remember, you owe your kids honesty, but you don’t owe them an explanation of everything that happens in your adult personal life.
When it is time to tell them what is going on, you can again keep the information limited if possible. Towards the bottom of the age bracket, you might get a little pushback, but a few conversations about how mommy and daddy still care about each other should calm things down just fine.
Towards the top of the age bracket here, you’ll probably have to get into the fact that you are not trying to replace their dad or mom. You’ll have to talk about how people sometimes still love each other but are better with other people. You’ll have to really know your kid here and figure out how much they can emotionally handle. The more they can handle, the more you should look to explain. The less they can handle, the vaguer you’ll want to be with things.
12-18 Years Old
This is most certainly going to be the toughest age bracket on the list to explain to your kids that you are dating again. Your kids are old enough to understand everything that is going on which means that you’re going to need to explain a lot more. But, the fact that they understand things a lot better means that you can use logic to explain what’s going on to them.
The best way to explain things to kids in this age bracket is in a clear and logical format. Don’t try and sugarcoat things or make it seem like something that it really isn’t. Tell them that you and their father or mother have been separated for a while and that you’ve met someone new that really makes you happy.
It’s extremely important that you drive home the fact that this new person makes you happy. As much as your kids would probably like to see you and their other parent back together, they still love you and want to see you happy. They might not be able to wrap their head around that right away, but it will come with time. When they realize that it’s something that makes you happy, they should be much more willing to get on board.
Tips to Make the Conversation Go Smoother
Before we send you out there to talk to your kids, we want to make sure we give you some tips to try and make the conversation go better. Take a minute and read through these tips and we’re sure they will help your message to be much better received by your kids.
Talk to Your Kids One on One
We recommend that you don’t talk to them about this with your new love interest there or with their father or mother around. This is something that you should discuss with them one on one. Additionally, if you have more than one kid, you should talk to them separately.
Each kid might react differently, and you’ll need to handle those reactions in different ways. Also, if one kid takes it positively and another does not, you do not want the second kid to turn your other kid from accepting to angry. Just strategically look for some time to talk to them separately so you can meet each of their individual needs best.
Expect This To Be Hard On Them
We get that you’re extremely happy and excited about your new love. But, your kids probably won’t be right away. They might see this as you replacing their other parent and they might take that kind of hard. Be aware that this may happen and is actually likely. It’s not that they don’t love you or don’t want to see you happy, but they are just kids, and their brains and logic are not fully developed.
Be prepared to be patient with them. Don’t get discouraged if the first conversation is tough or they storm off crying. This happens a lot, and the kids usually come around especially when they realize that it’s something that makes you happy. It might not happen in the first conversation or even the first few, but it should happen eventually.
Answer Their Questions
If your kids have questions, be prepared to answer them. Don’t just give them a speech and call it a day and move on. Ask them if they have any questions and be prepared to sit there as long as necessary to make them comfortable with what is happening.
That being said, there are boundaries of what they can and can’t ask. They are your kids, but you are still an adult and entitled to some of your own privacy. Answer what you are comfortable answering and the things that help them to understand the situation best. Anything that is out of line or mean or rude you do not have to answer. But, at least explain to them why you are not answering a certain question. We don’t anticipate you’ll get any of these type questions, but just remember that you are still entitled to some privacy in some areas of this situation.
Realize They May Tell Your Ex
Kids love to talk. We can almost guarantee that the first thing they’re going to tell their dad or mom when they see them next is about mommy or daddy’s new friend. This isn’t something that you can stop from happening or something that you should try to stop from happening. Just expect that it is going to happen and be prepared to respond accordingly.
Your ex might get mad or not handle things like an adult, or they may say nothing and be happy for you. It all depends on where your relationship left off and what kind of a person they are. Just be aware that this is going to happen when you tell your kids you are dating again.