Parent dating child

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''C OME for dinner,'' she told him on the third date. ''I can't imagine what got into them.'' Other single mothers and fathers can well imagine.

''I want you to meet my children.'' He arrived with flowers and a bottle of wine and not a twinge of foreboding. Seven-year-old Lisa positioned herself beside him on the sofa and began force-feeding him with potato chips. When a parent begins dating again after the divorce, children have a way of complicating the picture.

Wise singles recognize this important dynamic and don’t assume that becoming a couple necessarily means that they can become a family. Parents who begin dating quickly after the end of a relationship (whether by death or divorce) or who reach a quick decision to marry after a brief dating period often find their children more resistant to the marriage. Smart singles take a good long look in the mirror before dating. Smart single parents don’t let their children’s emotions dictate their dating progress, but they do listen and give serious consideration to how the children are feeling (becoming a couple is up to you; whether you become a family is up to them). Teens and adult children need to move toward your dating partner at their own pace.

They attend to both and take time assessing how the potential stepfamily relationships are developing. This sabotages the ability of a stepparent and stepchild to get off on the right foot with one another and puts the family at risk. They examine their motivations for dating, fears (e.g., their children not having a father), loneliness, and unresolved hurt (e.g., after divorce). Engage in these conversations throughout your dating experience, especially in anticipation of each stage of a developing relationship. If you make it your agenda to get them to accept your partner and relationship, you may be shooting yourself in the foot. Early on your kids may meet your date, but the first few dates should primarily be about the two of you.

A social worker at a single parent center in Flushing suggests mothers draw an analogy between a parent's need to date and a child's need for friends. They make her feel nice and likable and pretty.'') Parents often try to shield children from the facts of divorced life, reasoning that they are too young or too fragile to be told.

Not only does this rob the child of a chance to express his or her feelings, psychiatrists say, it also intensifies the child's normal fears of abandonment after a divorce.

Solutions vary, they say, depending on a variety of factors including the age and sex of the child and the child's relationship with the other parent.

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Tread lightly at first and continue to monitor and process everyone’s fears or concerns. Since you can’t judge lasting love by physical accoutrements or initial biochemical attractions, you need an objective measure of the qualities, attributes, and character of the person you are looking for.In the teen-ager, a strong negative reaction may be traced to his characteristic self-absorption and his own emerging sexuality. Mavis Hetherington, an authority on the effects of divorce on children, notes: ''Adolescents don't like to be reminded that their parents are sexual beings with lives of their own.'' In any case, the experts stress, children should not be expected to respect their parents' desire to date unless the situation is explained to them openly and honestly.Even the nursery school set can be made to understand.Parents who sneak out to avoid temper tantrums at home encourage their children to be manipulative and deprive them of ''the growth experience of dealing with something they find unpleasant,'' according to Dr.Richard Gardner, a child psychiatrist and the author of ''The Parents Book About Divorce'' (Doubleday, .95). Weiss, a sociologist with a special interest in single parents, points out in his book, ''Going It Alone'' (Basic Books, .95).

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