What Do I Do When My Parents Start Dating Other People?

When your parents split up it’s hard.  There are tons of changes that happen in your life, and you may never really get used to the idea though you will likely adapt to your new life eventually.  One thing that makes the process even harder though is when you parents start to date other people.  When your Mom starts dating other guys or your Dad starts dating other women, it’s hard to get past the initial “ick” factor” let alone learn to cope with the whole dating thing.  That’s why so many kids try to keep their parents from dating at all.  For more on that, check out “How Can I Keep My Parents From Dating After Divorce?”

Assuming you couldn’t stop them from dating, and most kids can not, you may be wondering what you can do to help make the situation easier or better.  Here are some tips:

  1. Try not to compare your parents’ new dating interest to your other parent.  If your Dad is dating someone new, don’t spend time constantly trying to figure out how she is or isn’t like you Mom.  Same thing if your Mom is dating someone new.  Try not to compare them to, or judge them, based on your Dad.
  2. Remember that no matter what happens with your parents’ new dating relationships, no one will ever replace your mom and dad.  You may have additional grown ups in your life, but you only have one mom and one dad.
  3. Don’t determine that you will not get along with your parents’ new dating partner.  Don’t hold your parents’ divorce against them.  They may be a very nice person.  It’s ok to like them, and it’s easier when you’re not looking for them to be a replacement mom or dad.  Liking your parents’ new boyfriend or girlfriend does not mean that you are betraying your other parent.
  4. Speak to them like you would any other adult (perhaps the parent of one of your friends, or a teacher at school or church).  You may not like that your Mom or Dad is dating them, but that doesn’t give you the right to be disrespectful.  Remember the Golden Rule and apply it to them like you would anyone else – “Treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
  5. Don’t bad mouth the new people in your parents’ lives to the other parent.  That isn’t your role and will only serve to make the tension between your parents worse.
  6. Spend time with your mom or dad away from their new relationship.  Remind them, in a nice way, that you still want some time alone with them and ask if they would be willing to do that with you.
  7. If your parents’ new dating interest makes you feel unsafe let your parent know that.  If they do anything inappropriate, report it to proper authorities immediately.  If you don’t know where to report it, talk to someone at school or church who can likely help you (a counselor, minister or teacher).
  8. Find someone you trust to share what you are going through.  Make sure that it is someone who is willing to tell you if you are being unreasonable or are wrong.  It doesn’t do you, or anyone else, any good to only talk with people who are going to “side with” you no matter what.
  9. Give it time.  All relationships take time to develop and grow.  Whatever relationship you might have with your parents dating partners will also take time to develop.  Don’t write them off right away, and don’t be discouraged because you are not instant best friends.