How Can a Single Mom Help Her Kids Get Along With Her Boyfriend?
By Melissa Chapman
As a young single adult navigating the often treacherous minefield of dating was unnerving enough. Between decoding voice mails left by members of the opposite sex, following the three date rule and hoping after many frogs you’d finally kiss your prince, when you got married you assumed you’d never have to get back out there again!
But now you have to deal with being divorced, being a single parent dating and children. Sometimes the prospect of dating seems impossible.
Having to juggle your own personal feelings regarding a potential suitor and balance those with your children’s opinions- or rather their indignant opposition to this innocent man, is causing you to reconsider whether this dating thing is worth all the aggravation and stress.
Enter Max Sindell, author of: THE BRIGHT SIDE: Surviving Your Parents’ Divorce, a book for kids, by a kid whose parents were divorced when he was six years old. That was his father’s second divorce. His mother has since remarried and so has his father . . . twice. Between traveling across the country alone at the age of eight, to dealing with his parents’ new boyfriends and girlfriends, step-fathers and step-mothers, at the very least Max can offer single Moms a little insight into the minds of their children and what they’re really thinking about their Mom’s suitor!
Here’s what Max had to say when he sat down with Single Minded Women.
SMW: What were your experiences dealing with your Mom’s boyfriends?
Max: My mom was really good about dating and boyfriends. She waited a little while after the initial separation, and generally kept them outside of my life until she felt something was more serious. For instance, I didn’t meet any guy she went out with on a first date, but after a few, and if it was getting serious we’d meet each other and maybe have a meal together so I could get to know them. My mom was also great about asking for and respecting my opinion.
One funny story I recall was when my Mom had started dating a guy named Richard. I’d heard a little bit about him from her, they’ been out maybe twice, and she decided it was time for us to meet each other. So she had him over for dinner, and he was just this kind of slicked back hair, LA guy and I didn’t like him at all. The whole dinner it felt like he was trying to crack jokes that weren’t funny, or winking at me like we were old buddies. Finally, after he left and my mom was cleaning up, she asked, “So, what did you think of Richard?” I thought about it for a second before I replied “Mom, Dick’s a dick.” She agreed, and that was the end of Dick.
SMW: Were there any reasons, specifically, why you didn’t get along with some of your Mom’s boyfriends?If so, what were the reasons and was there anything your Mom could’ve done to facilitate the “getting to know each other” process?
Max: As a kid I always looked out for my Mom, so as long as she seemed happy with them, I was too. I was aware that not every one of them was a potential stepfather, so I didn’t try and evaluate all of them like that. The rare cases I didn’t get along with a boyfriend were if they tried too hard to be “cool” or a “Dad” figure too fast, or talked to me like a kid instead of like a person.
SMW: What is your advice to single Moms facing the dating challenge with their kids; what is the best way to approach it?
Max: My advice to any divorced parent of kids is simple: No Surprises. Explain to your kids that you are going to be dating. You don’t have to introduce us to every boyfriend; only the ones you think are serious. (But if he’s around the house more than a couple of times, we have a right to know who he is.) Keep us informed, and ask our opinion. If you disagree, explain why. Really, we just want you to be happy, and we don’t want to see our Moms running around with some jerk, or worse, lonely.
SMW: What about the boyfriend; what can he do to help facilitate the bonding between himself and the single Mom’s child?
Max: The best thing to do is to be real, and not to worry too much – often times, it’s going to be hard to come into a family and fit in. But the worst and most transparent thing is when boyfriends (or girlfriends) try too hard. And don’t speak to us like you think kids should be spoken to. Just talk to us. And above all, talk to the kid like you actually want to get to know him, not because you’re trying to make him like you!
SMW: What can single Moms do to make their dating life as painless as possible on their kids?
Max: Every situation is different, and they are rarely, if ever, easy. The best way to cross those barriers is communication. Moms should be talking (and listening!) to their kids, and the new boyfriend should be talking and listening too. You can never expect it to happen overnight, but it’s important to have the patience to try.
To find out more about Max, who graduated from Johns Hopkins University in June of 2007 with a BA in Writing, and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York, check out www.survivingyourparentsdivorce.com
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