On Your Mind: Post-divorce dating and kids

Dear Tom,

My husband and I divorced about two years ago. We have two kids, both in elementary school. He remarried very quickly, and I’ve been dating regularly since the divorce. My mother thinks that dating is distracting me from being a mom and that I should concentrate more on the kids’ needs instead of my own. How can I tell if my dating is hurting the kids? I think I’d get depressed if I stopped dating.

Dear Mom,

Dating after a divorce is not an all or nothing proposition. Many people are good parents and date at the same time. Your kids will let you know — in subtle and not-so-subtle ways — if your dating is bothering them.

Here are some of the signs you should watch out for:

  • Sullenness or being less talkative before or after a date
  • Being more clingy or possessive
  • Outwardly questioning or challenging your actions, maybe even in a hostile or disrespectful way.

Now that you know the red flags, here are some general tips for dating after a divorce. Follow these to help lessen any adverse impact on your kids:

1. Continue to emphasize your No. 1 role as parent and your never ending love and support of your kids, no matter who you are dating.

2. Have open discussions with your children about your need to have friends and personal relationships,  just like they do.  Those relationships are healthy for you as they are for them.

3. Be concrete and consistent in your dating schedule (time and place) and stick to it. If you say you will be home by 10 p.m., be sure to be home by that time.

4. Consider delaying introducing the new person/date to your children until you get to know the person better and believe the person may be a longer term relationship.  A revolving door of “dates” may be confusing to your children.

5. Plan activities with your children before or after dates and remind them of those special times/things you plan to do together.

6. Most importantly, remind your kids that they did NOT cause the divorce or your desire to date other people — they had nothing to do with that.

So, mom, go ahead and date but be very attentive and sensitive to your children’s needs, their reactions and any impact your dating may have on them. Thanks for your note and feel free to write to me again with anything that’s on your mind.


Tom Petrizzo serves as CEO of Ozark Guidance and has degrees in social work and law. He has spent the last 20 years managing non-profit centers in Texas, Kansas, Colorado and Arkansas. He has also served as adjunct faculty at the social work graduate program at three large universities. He’s married to Teri Classick, a licensed clinical social worker, and they have two daughters. When he’s not at work, Tom likes to jog, bike ride, read and he even belted out the National Anthem at a Northwest Arkansas Naturals Game!

Tom would be happy to answer your questions and talk about what’s on your mind. Click the butterfly icon below to fill out an anonymous submission form with your question or concern. The form contains NO identifying information and is designed to give local women an online place to share concerns with a person qualified to offer feedback. Tom will be back each month to answer another woman’s question.