While some of you may be ready to find and welcome new love after loss, your children may not be so anxious for this life event to proceed. If you’re thinking about this, here is some food for thought.
Let’s talk about what is at the core of the issue first: how you have been approaching dating AND how it is affecting your children.
I believe your approach, which includes the way you integrate dating into your life and the life of your children, greatly impacts how well they might adjust to an eventual marriage and step family.
After my first husband died, my first thought was about my children. Somehow, I had enough faith to know that VERY far in the future I would be okay and even possibly find another mate. My children were another matter, for they had lost their father and would never have another one. That is not to say that they couldn’t have a “father-like” figure or some other male role model from whom they could learn and eventually emulate.
The very first piece of advice I received on how to assist my children with their grieving was the best. When I asked what I could do for my children, the counselor told me that they will follow my lead. If I chose to recover, then they would too. If I stayed mad at the world, depressed, etc., they would too.
So, a week after he died, I made a conscious decision that I was going to be proactive in my grief work and do everything within my power to show my children how to gracefully move from darkness to light. My energies were focused on them and we did most activities together. It was about two years after the death of their father that they finally said to me – Why don’t you go out and have some fun with your own friends!
What I accomplished by focusing on the kids in this way is that they were feeling safe again in the very unsafe world they experienced after their father’s death.
During this time, I also conveyed to them what I was doing to keep myself healthy so they didn’t have to worry about me getting sick. I always let them know where I was and when I would return. Even if I was going to be a minute late, I called to let them know. And because of this, they always returned the courtesy. Even when they were older in their twenties, I always got a phone call if they were to be late.
When a child feels secure, it’s easier for him/her to understand the concept of the ever expanding heart – which is that there is room in it for lots of people. Just because someone new comes into your life, it does not mean the old residents get kicked out. Love simply creates more love. It is to be shared, and there is enough to go around.
This is a foundational issue in building a step family because jealousy between the children of the different spouses or jealousy over a new wife or husband can easily arise.