Children of divorced parents definitely have something to say about their parents dating again after divorce.

I interviewed several children of divorced parents and they, without hesitation, had some things to say. Understandably, the comments are sometimes noticeably different amongst age groups but universally they all want to be heard and respected as they are introduced to a new partner entering into a new relationship with their biological mom or dad.

Here is the advice given by both boys and girls, ranging in age from 12 to 20.

No. 10

Listen to your children -

While some kids did not find it difficult to talk to their dating parent about their new relationship, many found it hard to communicate their feelings without it being disregarded. It is extremely important that you listen to their requests and acknowledge how challenging this may be for them.

No. 9:

Be respectful of the transition period -

While the needs of a teen may be entirely different than the needs of a six year old, the transition period is extremely important.

For teens, they don’t need, nor do they want, the new partner to just jump in and be a part of the family. Time has to be given to the transition of adjusting to this new person. In general, all kids wanted the new partner to take interest in their life, however, teens want it played out very different than younger children.

Teens are not interested in the new partner giving parenting advice unless they are solicited. New partners need to learn to ask questions, show interest in the things they do but don’t give advice. Don’t go over board and try too hard; they will sniff that out.

No. 8:

Don’t rush it -

Be careful to not introduce a new relationship too fast. Introduce the new partner in subtle ways like coming to dinner and then going home. Keep the dating scene away from the kids for a while. Don’t bring home a different person each weekend.

Make sure there is something forming before you introduce your kids to the revolving door of dates. If the kids think you are just good friends and the relationship ends it won’t be so hard on them. Having a relationship (or relationships) that are propelled into the family structure and then end abruptly is very difficult on the children.

They not only experience the adjustments to this new person but they may also develop feelings or a connection that will be devastating to them if they, too, go away like their mother or father did. A 17 year old boy said, “they have a responsibility to develop the relationship after they know the relationship with the parent is going to go somewhere”.

In essence, he is asking that the new partner not commit to building a relationship with him until he is sure he is going to be sticking around for a while. I

No. 7:

Don’t discount the previous marriage -

Several kids commented on the fact that the immediate replacement of a partner by one of their parents made them feel that their parent’s marriage didn’t mean anything. They were certainly not comfortable when the parent compared the new partner with their divorced spouse.

Be careful of the message you send when you bring a new partner in too quickly and denounce your previous marriage; it sends mixed messages to your already confused children.

One teenager confessed, “I think they need to have high standards. I think at some level if you made all this effort to divorce and then bring home just anyone it is almost hurtful… disrespectful because they just pick up just anybody. It is a slap in face to the kid because the parent goes thru this whole divorce and then just jumps into a new relationship. It is disrespectful to the marriage because they dishonor or fail to acknowledge their previous failure.”

No. 6:

Your new partner should just be themselves -

Don’t try to be something you are not. Kids will eat you up if you try too hard to be cool. One 17 year old girl reported, “I don’t have to like you but I want to respect you. That is all you should be looking for; not I want to be cool, whatever it takes. What you should focus on is ‘do they respect me?’ And the ways that that can happen is being yourself, not trying super hard to impress us. Kids are not stupid; they know when you are being someone you are not.”

No. 5:

Your children still need you -

Remember that children of divorced parents have felt the sense of loss in a big way. They have experienced the physical separation and the emotional separation.

During the divorce process, the kids have had to adjust to you not being fully available. The stress of the divorce can often leave a parent distant and moody. Now compound that with a new partner that comes into their lives and takes away the valuable time they have had with their parent.

A 16 year old boy shared, “I was a jerk at first because it was a competition thing. I wanted her time and she was devoted to him. I just started acting rude because I didn’t like him and didn’t like him taking my mom away from me”.

No 4:

They will test the new relationship -

Be ready for conflict or personal attacks out of nowhere. It’s a test, merely a test.

A 17 year old teenage girl reports, “The whole point of it is to see you buckle. To see you fall. They want to see your strength, your personal confidence; it is a test. Don’t take it personally like they hate you. You should let it roll off your back and flip it back; it’s a game… Kids don't want to see their parents with someone and they want their parents to kiss and make up and get back together so when their parents are with someone else, the kids are going to be bitter, at some unconscious level, try to drive them away.”

No. 3:

Be sensitive to blending families -

Blending families after divorce can be very difficult. Not only is the parent expecting their children to adjust to this new adult but they often have their own children, too. There may be age differences or personality differences or lack of interest in each other’s activities.

One teenager struggling with this very issue says, “I think a lot of it depends on the age. If they’re a few years younger it can be a nuisance because they look up to you and bother you but it becomes annoying because they hang onto you. But if they are older, that is cool because you have someone to look up to. But if they are way young, toddlers, I think it would be great except if I have to become the babysitter. Make sure you hire babysitters; unless they pay you well, you shouldn't expect the older kids to baby sit your date’s children just to be a good daughter... unless you have a very honest conversation with them about it.”

No. 2:

Only one set of parents, please -

Kids overwhelming felt that the new partner does not get parenting rights.

A 17 year old girl summarized it well by saying, “Just because you are dating my mom doesn’t mean you get parenting rights with the kids. For example, if a kid is talking to their mom about curfew, they don't have the right to tell them when they need to be home. Now, if I grew up with that person for some time or if they are there 24/7, then it might be different. But if they are there just part of the time, they don't have the right.”

No. 1:

PDA is not okay -

Overwhelmingly, at all age groups, public display of affection was very difficult for the kids. Here is what they said:

“There is an underlying rule that you shouldn't have a lot of affection in front of your kids. Random kisses are okay but holding each other and making out is not okay.”

“Affection makes me uncomfortable. It is hard for the kids because they have to witness the family fall apart and now they have to witness them with someone else. Keep their affection private to a degree but not making out on the couch.”

“It is weird to think of my mom having sex with another man. It takes time to adjust they need to give us that time.”

“No PDA for a while. I don’t want to see it. They can do it on their own time. I actually am not too bothered if they spend the night. I just don’t want to see it in front of my face.”

The key to introducing a new partner in your life is including the children in the process.

They don’t need anymore surprises. Depending on the depth of your relationship, discuss the situation and solicit their comments. They can then feel a part of this new process of dating after divorce.

For more information on helping children and divorce, head on over to

Author's Bio: 

Mark is certified as a Family Wellness Instructor and with The International Network for Children and Families as an instructor for their curriculum, Redirecting Children’s Behavior. Between his travels conducting family retreats, weekend workshops, powerful presentations to a wide range of audiences, and life coaching to parents and teens throughout the United States, Mark shares his time between The Satori Institute Retreat Center in Oregon and his life coaching practice. You can find Mark at