So you’re ready to start dating again—and maybe you’ve already found someone. That’s great news—and your adult children will probably be quick to tell you they just want you to be happy. But no matter their good intentions, adult children can be more uncomfortable with the idea that mom or dad has a new significant other than you’d suspect.
Even though they’ve grown up and left the house, there might be feelings that the new person can never replace their other parent—and may not be good enough for you. Here are a few tips to introduce the topic.
Talk to Your Children
Your children do want you to be happy—but they may need some warming up to the idea of you dating again. Talk to them about why you want to start dating again—including feelings of loneliness, and the desire to have someone to rely on. Explain that every person you introduce them to might not be the one you want to settle down with—but that you need room to make your own mistakes in this area, just as they have.
Try to understand what makes your adult children hesitant about the idea of you dating. Adult children are reluctant to accept this (no matter their intentions and best wishes for your happiness) for a variety of reasons, many of which are subconscious.
These can include:
- Feeling threatened about someone else taking over their role of caretaker in your life.
- Negative feelings about the new person taking the place of a deceased or absent parent.
- Worry about competing for your time.
- Anxiousness about major change.
- Concern for your financial status and security.
- Worry over their inheritance status if the new relationship gets serious.
It’s important to try to identify and reassure your children’s concerns as much as possible. Be sure they know that the new person is not considered a replacement for an absent parent; that you will still be there for them no matter what, and that financial and inheritance issues will not change. An initial conversation before you start dating—or before you introduce your adult children to your new flame—can do a lot to change attitudes and dissipate conflict.
Talk to your new flame
Tell them about your kids—their interests, jobs, and their own children—so the new partner will have plenty of information with which to start a conversation. Warn them ahead of time about any sensitive information—a marriage on the rocks or recent unemployment, for example. First impressions can sometimes set the tone for future relationships, and having key information going in can help your significant other make as good an impression as possible.
Make Initial Meetings Casual
Don’t bring the new boyfriend or girlfriend to a major holiday dinner or family getaway. Instead, bring them out to a movie, a casual family dinner, or lunch with your adult children. Do as much as you can to make it no big deal—for both the new significant other and your kids. Make sure the meeting is as low-pressure as possible. Undoubtedly your adult children and your significant other will both be nervous about meeting each other, so it’s important that the surrounding events don’t do anything to magnify the situation.
Keep Lines of Communication Open
Be sure your adult children know that you want them to come to you with their concerns and worries. Keeping communication open can give you the opportunity to allay concerns and diffuse tensions before they become a problem.
Dating with kids isn’t easy—even when your children are grown. Adult children can have strong feelings about who you date or even whether you date again—even if they claim they don’t. Keep communication open and be sure to allay your children’s fears as much as possible, and your significant other’s inclusion in your family is likely to be a smoother process, once you’re both ready.