How to Help Your Child overcome Your Divorce
For Separated, Divorcing, and Divorced Parents with Children Ages 12 & Under
by Elissa P. Benedek, M.D. and Catherine F. Brown
Chapter 6: IMPACT OF DIVORCE ON PARENTING
Within a few months after separating, 35 year old Maureen realized she underestimated how hard life alone is. The chores they split were now hers. With sole custody of her 6 & 8-year-old girls, she was responsible for the family's welfare. They had no relatives in the area where they lived. They moved there right after college. When Maureen's ex took a job in another state, the girls were devastated and she was deprived of a backup babysitter. Now when the girls were sick, she was caught between the no win choices of begging time off from her f/t job as a nurse & sending a sick child to school. On top of it all, she was trying hard to save extra money so she could buy a small townhouse in a neighborhood with better schools. Thus, she often worked extra shifts when the girls were with their dad.
Maureen was usually tired and overwhelmed, wishing there were more hours to do everything she had to. Ironically, the worst part of the day came when all her work was done. With the house quiet and the girls asleep, it was hard to push memories of happier & easier times from her wandering mind, and she began to question what to do next. She knew her marriage couldn't be saved. But missed the companionship & support it provided.
Maureen's situation is typical of many custodial parents within a year of separation or divorce. Non -custodial parents don't have it much easier. Although the daily demands on their time & energy may be less, missing their children & the routine of family life can be just as heavy a burden. Similarly, the amount of distress a person experiences is not entirely related to which spouse wanted or sought the divorce. Both spouses can expect some rough sailing in the days ahead.
People in Maureen's position are at a crucial point for them & their children. How they approach restructuring their lives after the breakup of their marriage is another important factor in their children's adjustment to the new family situation.
The process of separation/divorce sets up an almost impossible situation for parents. At the same time, they need time to deal with the emotions & stress accompanying the loss of their marriage & to decide a new course of action their children have the greatest need for reliability & assurances of love. Absorbed in their own problems, parents may become less affectionate with their children or fail to discipline consistently. The more parents pull back to regroup after a divorce, the more fiercely children show their need for attention. When parents & children lose their emotional equilibrium, they exacerbate each other's problems. The key to breaking this cycle is for parents to do various things: 1) take control of their lives; 2) Create a nurturing, predictable environment for the children; 3)deal with the children authoritatively; 4) Be aware of some of the problems that divorced parents commonly encounter, as described in this chapter. Maureen was one of the lucky or to be more precise, intuitive parents. A few years ago she summed up her approach to this difficult time of her life to me: "Although it has been hard, I finally realized what my children needed most was a reasonably stable mother they knew they could count on." Although this may simplify what she in reality had provided for her children, her instincts were on the mark.
Common Problems of Divorced Parents
When people first separate/divorce, they experience an array of emotions from sadness, anxiety, guilt, shame, & shock to elation over believing that all their problems are now solved. The spouse who didn't want the divorce may feel worthless & unlovable. The one who wanted it may have second thoughts. There is no one -order for these emotions; each may come & go, again & again.
At the same time, there are new living arrangements to get used to. The spouse with whom the children live may remain in the family home, reminding them of the loss of the parent who moved out. If the family home must be sold & proceeds- split, both spouses will probably move to new neighborhoods. Maybe the children will go to a new school & make new friends. The mother, in addition to leaving behind neighbors she chatted with regularly or could turn to in emergencies, may feel isolated & embarrassed if her socioeconomic status dropped. If she has not done so already, she may be entering the work force f/t. The non-custodial parent, usually the father, may be paying child support, but he may resent the fact that he too may have a lower standard of living and that he now plays a reduced role in his children's lives. Parents may be wrestling each other in the courts over custody or visitation disagreements.
One of the most worrisome reactions is a parent's lacking the energy to go to work, keep up the daily chores, take proper care of the children in short, losing interest in life itself. These are signs of serious depression. If symptoms persist for a month or longer, a mental health professional must be consulted (see Chapter 12). If the person is thinking or talking about committing suicide, a psychiatrist should be consulted immediately.
As I pointed out in the last chapter, it is vital that parents overcome these reactions & for the children's sake, learn how to handle the stresses brought about by the divorce. The children's adjustment is directly linked to the parents' adjustment. Adult Regression Chapter 5 notes that children sometimes regress in reaction to their parents' separation and divorce. In often has the same effect on adults too. Some adults may go so far as to become helpless, depending on others, including their children to take care of them.
Eve, for example, became extremely upset when her husband of ten years suddenly left. Although she ran the home smoothly & took good care of their son when married, after he left she began to have difficulty making even routine decisions. When the roof leaked or the stove broke, she called her former husband. After she overdrew her checking account a few months in a row, she asked him to take over paying the bills. Since he still felt guilty about leaving suddenly, he helped. He soon found, the more he helped her, the more dependent she became on him. Within a few more months her helplessness & childish behavior made him fear for his son's safety. She came to see me for help when he began threatening to sue her for custody of their son.
Liz, too, was thrown into mental disarray after her divorce. To block out her pain, she tried to find solace in a procession of men. Up to that point, she only slept with her husband & prided herself on being a virgin on their wedding night. After a year of one or-two night stands, she felt ashamed and embarrassed by her uncharacteristic behavior. Soon after entering therapy, she decided to be tested for Herpes and HIV. So far, she has tested negative, but she will have to undergo more testing before she can be reasonably sure she is free of HIV.
Most people don't need to see a mental health professional to recover from regressive behavior. Usually such changes are temporary, remitting when the person is able to reestablish a sense of inner equilibrium and direction.
Parent as Child, Child as Parent After Divorce
Some parents experience a specific type of regression in which they become too dependent on one or more of their children. In essence, a role reversal takes place in which the children become the parents' caretakers, confidants & counselors. These parents are most often troubled, depressed & lonely; they are unwilling or unable to take responsibility for themselves. Sometimes they are alcoholics/depend on drugs. The result is a form of mental bondage & skewed development in the child & a faulty sense of reality in the adult. In its most destructive (but rare) variant, some adults commit incest, using the child as a replacement for the lost marital partner. More commonly, they have the child sleep with them to alleviate their loneliness. (As I emphasize in Chapter 5, parents should not invite or permit their children to sleep with them.)
Most parents, however, are vulnerable to depending too much on their children in more subtle ways. Nancy, for example, was divorced after 15 years of marriage. Because of her extreme shyness, she had never made many friends. When she was married, taking care of her family had filled her time, giving her a ready excuse to refrain from cultivating new friendships. Now for companionship all she had left was her 10 year old daughter, Alexa. The two of them were inseparable. On weekends when Alexa wasn't with her father, they spent much of their time at the mall, latest movies & taking short trips.
Within a year of the divorce, Nancy began interfering with Alexa's paternal visits. When he called to arrange a visit, Nancy would say Alexa was busy or didn't want to go with him that weekend because of special plans they made.
When the visits ceased, the father hired an attorney to enforce visitation rights. And I saw Nancy & Alexa as an impartial, court- appointed examiner.
The extent of Nancy's problem became clear as I interviewed the family members. Alexa noted that after her father first left, her mother's only apparent interest outside work was television. Except for a few of Alexa's friends, no one ever came to visit them, and they, in turn, visited no one, not even relatives. A sensitive, insightful child, Alexa worried about her mom spending too much time alone & took it on herself to liven up her mother's life. She eventually became afraid to leave her mother, for when Alexa wasn't around, Nancy would spend hours sleeping or watching T.V.
Clearly, Alexa's life revolved around her mom. As she took more & more responsibility for her mother's welfare, she was increasingly being locked out of the normal growing up experiences of a preadolescent. Her dad was right to be concerned. I recommended Nancy & Alexa enter family therapy to correct the parent/child roles. Nancy also needed individual treatment to address other problems that became apparent in the evaluation. I also recommended Alexa's visitation with her dad resume immediately.
The temptation to become too dependent on your children is always there if you do not have another adult to whom you can turn when you need advice or just someone to talk to. Although there is nothing wrong in soliciting your children's opinions in matters that concern them (in fact, doing so helps build their sense of responsibility & family commitment), avoid relying on them for advice that affects only you or that should be offered only by adults. For example, it's all right to ask your children to help pick out the family's new car, but you should not ask them whether you should a date with someone you met recently at work.
Denial & Sublimation
Some people deny being upset or angry over their divorce. They claim they adjusted & have resumed living a full life in the single lane. Eileen, a former patient, fell into this category. She said she sought therapy because of the difficulties she had with her 10 year old son.
She couldn't understand why he was still having problems over the divorce 3 years afterward, especially since she didn't. This woman was extremely active in a number of causes in her community, chief among them water pollution and other environmental problems. She also had a f/t professional job & volunteered at her son's school. In time it became clear she had residual feelings about her divorce and other problems related to her rivalry with her sister & other family members. To protect herself from those unpleasant feelings, she funneled all her energy into keeping busy every minute. This is known as sublimation. In her case it took a long time to break down her defenses, but in the end she was able to rework her life so that she spent more time with her son & having fun.
People like Eileen should not be confused with people who enjoy leading busy, full lives. All of us would do well to become involved in a variety of activities. Developing interests outside the daily grind keeps our intellect growing & expands our range of friends/acquaintances. The danger comes when we fill our schedules to the point where we may be avoiding dealing with problems, have little time and energy left for our needs and those of our loved ones. This busyness may be an attempt to ward off depression. It only postpones the inevitable.
Overburdening Children With Responsibility
For many hurried, overworked single parents, it is often too easy to fall into a routine in where they depend on an older child to take care of the younger ones. They might assign chores to the children that are dangerous or an unrealistic degree of responsibility, but also take them away from schoolwork and social activities normal for their age. An only child may be put in an even more difficult bind: expected to fend for herself, she has no sibling with whom to share her fear of being alone and her distress about the absent parent.
Although it is reasonable for single parents to expect children to do some chores, such responsibilities should be assigned within certain limits: 1) They should be appropriate to the child's age. A 9 year old child, for example, should not be expected to cook dinner and clean up after it every night; 2) Generally children under ten should not be left unsupervised, and children under twelve should not be put in charge of younger children. This is not to say, however, that once youngsters reach these ages, they are ready to be left alone or baby sit. A child's maturity and willingness are the determining factors; 3) Older children should not be given total responsibility for the care of younger siblings. They are siblings, not substitute parents. Not only does this overburden older children, it has serious consequences for the younger ones too: recent research indicates that children cared for by older siblings may have low self esteem. A possible cause may be not getting enough parental attention, to stresses on the family, or to older siblings' picking on younger children when the parent is out; 4) Chores shouldn't be heaped on a child to the extent that they interfere with schoolwork, sleep or preclude time with friends. Schoolwork is a child's most important job, and an active social life is a necessary ingredient of healthy development.
Instead of overburdening kids, some parents go too far the other way. To ease their guilt over the divorce’s unpleasant repercussions, these parents exclude kids from chores/try to do everything themselves. Or they may use faulty reasoning such as "I had to do too many chores when I was a kid. I don't want to put my kid through that." Such selfless intentions are unrealistic from the parent's perspective/disservice kids. Being assigned/expected to carry out age appropriate tasks creates a sense of accomplishment/self discipline in children. It's training ground for handling increasingly harder demands that'll be placed on them by school/work. Studies noted that children with divorced parents reap unanticipated benefits from assuming a great deal of responsibility at a young age. Many of them note that they have a greater sense of strength, independence & capability as a result of their survival experiences in a post divorce family. They are clearly proud of themselves/their ability to assist their parents at a time when the family's future was seriously jeopardized. Children whose parents are divorced like all children need to feel needed. Parents shouldn't try to protect them from life. The danger comes when children are robbed of their childhoods, forced to grow up far before they are ready. They can never recapture those years.
A danger to look for, especially in the first few months after divorce or separation is violence between former spouses & child abuse. A dad denied visitation because child support is late maybe tempted to strike the mom when she begins to belittle him in front of the kids. A mom who comes home from work late one night to find the kids spilled milk on the kitchen floor may slap the first kid who approaches her without question. Kids may become violent with a parent. I once treated a 12 year old boy, who, among other things, pushed his father down the porch stairs one night when he tried to make him come in to dinner.
Although overwrought parents may be operating on short fuses, there's never any excuse for violence. If you feel yourself losing control of your temper to the point where you want to hit someone, you should leave. If this is impossible, take a mental time out to cool off. The old advice of counting to 20 or more, works. If you fear someone else is going to become violent, you should leave immediately & take the children with you.
If you have guns in your house, get rid of them now. You should also insist that your former spouse do the same, or at the very least keep the guns off the premises when the children are present. Simply storing firearms and ammunition separately is not adequate protection.
Because family violence has received so much attention in the past decade, communities are doing a better job of offering many services/self help groups to victims/people who want to overcome violent tendencies. Check your local or state government for the phone #'s of appropriate agencies; info on self help groups should be available from your local hospital or the phone book. Other good information sources are the local medical/bar societies.
Parents who abuse their kids are likely to be found/reported. More & more pediatricians, E.R. personnel and other health care specialists are trained to spot injuries suggestive of child abuse. These pros are required to report suspected child abuse to authorities who'll investigate & if warranted, take steps to protect the victim & others in the home. This may range from mandated family counseling to removing the kids or parent from the home.
If you or your children are the -object of your ex spouse's violence, don't hesitate to get a restraining order to prevent him or her from getting near you or them. Admittedly, such court orders have a limited value against someone determined to do serious harm, but they may deter some people and at least create a paper trail if you need to take further action. A few states have enacted anti-stalking laws designed to protect individuals from threat/harassment. Consult your lawyer about reasonable and effective steps to take.
Remember, your best bet in preventing a violent encounter is to leave a.s.a.p. Next, be sure to tell someone about what happened & get help if you fear the threat will continue. Tell your family doctor, who may be able to provide additional aid & medical care.
Finally, don't blame yourself. You cannot make someone violent; that person is solely responsible for his or her behavior.
Isolation V. Hyperactivity
In the immediate aftermath of separation and divorce, many people tend to follow one of two patterns in their lives: they either isolate themselves from others or pursue a hyperactive social life.
People who become isolated may do so for many reasons. Some parents, for example, can’t afford a babysitter; others may feel guilty if they leave their children with a babysitter after being away from them all day. Although their motivations are different, both types of parents may come to resent their children. From these parents' point of view, the children are locking them out of opportunities to take a break from their demanding routines and spend some time with other adults.
Some parents, however, use their work & the kids as a handy excuse for avoiding interaction with others. They may still be sad/upset over divorce, unable to put it behind them & take those first few shaky steps to reestablish their lives. They show no interest in dating again & may deny having any sexual feelings. Sometimes they harbor unrealistic expectations that their former spouse may someday return & they thus choose to live in a "just in case" limbo.
Some people, overwhelmed by their grief/failure to set new goals, may lack energy to do anything beyond absolute minimum to survive daily. Making an effort to meet new people or to take on new challenges is simply out of the question. Such behavior often fosters over-dependence on the children, since they become the parent's only focus in life. What will become of such a parent when the children have their own lives? In its worst form, isolation may lead to severe depression/other psychological problems. As I said earlier in this chapter, such people need professional help.
Jack's case is typical of parents who isolate themselves after divorce. As the custodial father of 2 girls & a boy all under 10, he found weekdays an unchanging routine of hurried breakfasts, dirty laundry/carpools. It seemed as though there was at least one family crisis each day demanding his attention, a sick kid, forgotten hw & weekends were often his only chance to catch up on housework. On the few occasions when he tried to bring in a babysitter, his youngest kid would cry almost to the point of hysteria. Although he never regretted having custody, he wished he had time away from home.
His wish was reasonable. Spending time away from the kids to be with other adults can help people become better parents. It offers a chance to step back from the problems/tensions at home/put them in proper perspective. Parenthood is only one of many possible roles in an adult's life.
At the other extreme of the social spectrum are those parents who are never home. With a full schedule of night classes, church activities, outings with friends and so on, they leave the children with a round of babysitters, the kid's other parent and willing friends/relatives. Some may go so far as to replace the former spouse with a serious new love interest before they are emotionally ready, or they frenetically engage in indiscriminate dating and sexual relationships.
Sometimes such parents are (subconsciously or not) trying to blot out the fact that they have children, as it reminds them of their failed marriage or an unwanted responsibility. Obviously, the children suffer greatly by missing out on the consistent parenting and needed love, particularly in the first few months after the divorce. Their distress is compounded by an out of control parent's antics and, not surprisingly, they often mirror that behavior back to the parent.
In the first months to a year after separation/divorce, these/other effects of the emotional, financial & lifestyle upheaval brought on by the dissolution of a family are very much on everyone's minds. When the dust finally begins to settle, however, there is the business of building a new life.
Your first task in reconstruction is to put failed marriage behind you & deal with any residual feelings of grief, anger, self blame, or guilt. This can’t be done overnight; working through feelings takes time/willingness to recognize your worth as a person/capacity to love/be loved again. You also must realize your role -as spouse is separate from parent. Your marriage ended, your parenting relationship didn’t. Your kids love you unconditionally; it's up to you to show them their love is well placed.
At some time in the future, the chances are good that you will remarry, but if you are in the first year or so after your divorce, you should take your time in establishing a new love interest. If it happens, that's all well and good, but it should not be a major focus of your life right now.
I'm reminded of divorced mom of a patient who did this. When the mom wasn't at work, every spare minute she relentlessly pursued husband to help provide for her/her daughter. Every Friday & Sat. night, she'd douse herself in cologne, put on makeup/evening clothes & join middle aged friends at a local club frequented by her set. The mom's desperate behavior had sorry consequences for her child, who, left by her self when her mom was on the town, began to use drugs, shoplift/fail school. Of course, there were other problems between mom & daughter, but in the mom's single minded pursuit of a husband for herself/dad for her daughter she had little time/energy left to deal with her daughter's needs, much less have normal mother daughter relationship with her.
Next, you need to accept the permanence of divorce. You and your ex will still have dealings with each other and I hope, as I've emphasized over and over, they'll be civil and characterized by compromise. Although your children's fantasies about the two of you reconciling may never entirely vanish, at some juncture they need to feel, as you do, at peace with the divorce. This is more likely to happen if they see that you have taken the lead in this direction.
Kids ability to come to terms with divorce has important consequences, not just right after it but as an adult. Kids with divorced parents are more likely to be divorced too; they sometimes rush into relationships for which they are ill prepared in an effort to prove they are lovable and fight against their fear of rejection. If they see that you recover they may avoid it.
Attaining an inner peace about the divorce partly depends on the quality of the relationship you and your ex spouse are able to build as parents to the children you share. If seeing or thinking of your ex spouse is emotionally charged for you, you may need to monitor your attitudes and behavior toward your ex spouse in front of your children. Remember, although the two of you were unable to continue your marital relationship, this has nothing to do with the right or ability of each of you to be a good parent.
Creating a Social Life
For many people, one of the most difficult aspects of single parenting is dealing with the social isolation that seems to be an inherent part of the job. More than one single parent has remarked to me, "I have no life outside my children. It's not that I don't want one; I simply don't have the time or the money." Now is the time for you to realize that your ultimate well being (and your mental health) depends on your ability to create a new identity for yourself in which being a parent is only one part, not the whole.
Ironically, having a life of your own will make you that much more effective as a parent, because it widens the perspective and outlook by which you can interpret and deal with your children's behavior and needs.
This is true for parents who are married or divorced. I treated many women, now in late middle age, who have devoted their entire lives to their families. These women never worked outside the home, or if they did, it was often to help put a child through college.
Their volunteer work also centered on kids, perhaps the PTA or Scout troop. Although their motivations were admirable and many can boast of well adjusted, successful children, these mothers now appear helpless to refocus their energy in new directions. Particularly tragic are the parents who continue to inject themselves into the lives of their grown children & are then rejected.
Diving back into the social melee means more than searching for a new mate. It means redefining old relationships, as possible, with people who knew you as part of a couple and beginning friendships with people with whom you may now have more in common. It also entails finding interesting ways to spend your time that permit you to learn new skills or widen your social circle. Many newly divorced people take advantage of their single status to pursue school, career, hobbies, and other pastimes for which they didn't have the time when they were married.
Perhaps the easiest/safest, way to enlarge your social circle/interests is to "exploit" your natural interests as well as family/friends. You’re more apt to meet people like yourself when you meet them in connection with activities that interest you or people you already know. I knew a lady with a lifelong interest in art but never felt she was good enough to pursue it. Deciding she had nothing to lose after her divorce, she signed up for an art course at a community college.
A classmate was a local hospital volunteer who invited her to come to the hospital once a week & share her talent with the children on the pediatric ward. Her self esteem got a double boost, not only did she feel good about her art, but she also felt appreciated/needed by the children.
Another woman took up the fiddle & clog dancing. She met her second husband during a week long fiddle camp in Georgia.
If you belong to a Church or Synagogue, or want to, you can take advantage of many opportunities to participate in interesting activities & meet new people. Many churches/synagogues now have special groups for singles, although you certainly don't have to limit your involvement to belonging only to them. Activities sponsored by religious organizations also offer the advantage of being sensitive to the demands of parenting. I know a choir director who welcomes members' children at rehearsals. He set up a play area for them in the rehearsal hall. During service, children can participate in a Bible study or childcare group in the church basement.
Most communities have Parents Without -Partners (Chapter 15). As its name implies, this group offers members a chance to meet and provide support to other single parents. Similar groups have sprung up in many places. In my area, for example, one is the Ski Club. Some people avoid such groups for fear that they will be branded as being on the hunt for a new spouse, or stigmatized in other ways. But most people who attend seem to enjoy the emotional support they provide & the children being included in many social activities. Furthermore, the nature of these groups makes it easy to participate or drop out as your needs shift or as it become less useful.
Many divorced people have said to me in one way or another, "I have no interest in dating or ever remarrying. I've learned my lesson. I never want to risk getting hurt again." Although this reaction is common in the early stages after divorce, when wounds still raw, it rarely lasts. At some point, most divorced people date/remarry. Your beginning to date again marks still another transition for your children. Although you have a right to your social life, you also have a responsibility to handle it so that your children make a healthy adjustment to seeing you with someone who is a potential love interest. This collides head on with their lingering fantasy that you/ex could someday reunite. Sometimes children try to dissuade their parents from dating.
Earlier I said parents become over dependent on their children; the reverse is common too. When a parent begins to date again, an over dependent child may feel less needed/become despondent because they feel less important to the parent. Once the parent may have shared confidences with the child; the parent now has someone else in his or her life for that. As a result, the child may try to interfere with new relationships or cleverly set ambushes to prevent the parent from leaving home. That says that parents need to build a life for themselves/help kids do the same. So neither becomes too-dependent on -the-other.
Understandably, venturing into the world of dating is intimidating/confusing. The conflicting emotions you experienced when dating during adolescence/young adulthood were probably easier to handle than those associated with dating as a divorced adult. At that time you were learning as much about yourself/concept of relationships/sex/person you dated. And because of your age, dating was only one facet of your life. You had school to think about, a career to launch. The stakes are now different. Many things have changed since then, & your children figure into the new equation.
Here are some points to keep in mind about dating: 1) Don't think of dating as a search mission for a new spouse. It can be simply another way to spend time with a friend you particularly like or have something in common with; 2) Act your age and be yourself. Some newly single people think they can make themselves more attractive by sporting trendy haircuts and wearing clothes designed for teenagers and young adults. They may buy a sports car and begin hanging out in nightclubs frequented by the college age crowd. Some may even enjoy what they think is harmless flirting with a child's girlfriend or boyfriend. Rather than appearing sexier or more with it, such people are little more than caricatures of their younger selves, more to be pitied than admired.
Their children often grow to resent them for not looking or behaving like the adults they expect and need them to be. In particular, preadolescents and adolescents may feel that they are in competition with mothers and fathers who are so obviously trying to increase their sex appeal and recapture their youth. Of course, a laudable goal at this time may be to improve your appearance by losing some weight, increasing your physical fitness, or getting a new hairstyle, but be clear about your motives: you should do things to please yourself, not as a lure for a new partner.
If you are in the process of divorcing and your soon to be ex begins to date, try not to share your anger or hurt with your children. Remember even though you're still married, the line between separation and divorce is thin.
Don't try to hide your dating from your children. You’ll fail. Youngsters will pick up on the cues and may react more strongly to your duplicity than to the dating itself. "I always know when my mom is going on a date," complained ten year old Evan, half amused, half insulted. "She always says she's going to Aunt Rhonda's house."
Introduce dates to your kids in a direct, reassuring manner but without providing more info than needed. A mom may say, for example: "Joe, this is Mr. Smith. We’re going to dinner at the new restaurant by the movie theater. I gave the # to the babysitter & she can call me if something comes up. I'll be home around 11. I know you'll be fast asleep by then, but I'll check on you and kiss you good night again." This kind of statement shows that you respect their concern about your whereabouts & safety and lessens any feelings of abandonment that might be resurrected by your temporary absence.
Let common sense guide you in sexual matters. For example, do not engage in sex activity in front of the kids or bring home dates to spend the night. The time for intimacy is when kids are away. Also, do not fall prey to one night stands. They are not uncommon among newly divorced people, who may be trying to make up for the deprivation they suffered in their marriage or to prove their sexual desirability. You may think that because you are an adult, the rules should be different from those you will set for your children when they reach adolescence, but in actuality, they probably shouldn't be that far apart. After all, you will be one of the most formative influences on your children's sexual behavior. "Do as I say and not as I do" doesn't make much of an impact on an adolescent whose hormones are in overdrive.
Furthermore, it is nothing short of stupid to ignore the possibility of acquiring HIV and other sexually transmitted conditions. If you are involved in a stable, long term relationship, it is probably not harmful if that person stays overnight at your house. But under most circumstances, I would caution against sharing the same bedroom, unless the person moving in with you is intended to be long-term.
Don't engage in a succession of short term, intense relationships. You want to keep your home life stable. That means refraining from introducing to your children a variety of people who will subsequently drop out of their lives. Each time it happens it represents another loss and abandonment to the child. This may seem like another tough hurdle to dating. But remember, u can take advantage of times when your children are with your ex.
Be careful about dating and engaging in sex before your divorce is final. If your spouse is suing for custody, such activity can be used as negotiating leverage against your position. Do not think of your dates as stand in parents. You alone are responsible for the care and discipline of your children.
However, it's all right to ask a person well established in your life to be a friend to your kid. A mom could ask her boyfriend to advise her 6 year old son on how to handle bullies, or a dad might ask his girlfriend to help his 12 year old daughter pick out a special dress for her first school dance.
Do not use your dating activities as a means for hurting your former spouse or proving to him or her that you are sexually attractive. Never encourage your children to report on your private life when they are with their other parent. (You can reasonably expect that they will make reports of their own, coached or not, but such tales should be free of your influence.) Likewise, you should respect your former spouse's right to a private life and not pump your children for information about him or her.
If your former spouse is dating someone steadily, don't turn your children against that person when they all appear to be getting along well together. The children will feel confused and disloyal to you if you are sending messages that conflict with their perceptions. Be thankful that there is one more person in your children's lives who cares about them.
There's no need to be insecure about your place in your kid's affections. No one can ever replace a parent in a kid's heart. There are few events in a person's life that equate with the trauma of divorce and you need as many friends and relatives to rally around you as possible. Although rebuilding your life may take time and patience, it is possible to do so in a way that will benefit you.