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Jealous of Dad’s girlfriend — Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

My daughter’s mom moved out when she was just a baby. They see each other often, at least twice a week. But it’s safe to say she has never known her mother and me as a couple. I have had many short and long-term dating partners, but have kept my romantic life out of my daughter’s awareness. She’s now 10. For the past six months, my current girlfriend and I have gotten more seriously involved. She has a son and daughter who attend my daughter’s school. The five of us have had several family outings together. The girls have known each other since kindergarten and get along well. In fact, as I look back over some of the playdates they had when they were younger, the idea to fix their single parents up with each other was originally theirs. However, lately my daughter is getting argumentative when I tell her about upcoming plans with my girlfriend, whether it’s with or without the kids. Truly, she’s not getting any less of me, just more of them.

The other day she told me she doesn’t like it when I kiss my girlfriend.

Well, I am fond of this woman and think we are a good match for each other. We have both learned the hard way what to avoid in a parenting partner and like what we see in each other.

How do I split myself between catering to my daughter’s needs (which seem to be, at the extreme, to keep her and me as a closed unit) and the open pursuit of what could ultimately be the blending of two families?

Don’t miss last week’s column Advocate for healthy school hours — Good Parenting

Dad Who Dates

Dear DWD,

The child of a single parent can be oblivious to an adult’s needs for romance and will get jealous of having to share attention. It was wise of you to spare your daughter the ups and downs of your dating activities. Even if you and her mother have never been a couple in her conscious life, the unconscious mind seems to hold an ideal of having both a mother and a father to complete a family unit. Children often fantasize that their absent parent will return – even if he or she has died. While it may be fun to imagine a new partner for one’s parent (including the parent of a friend), the child of a dating parent can harbor resentment against any candidate who actually tries to move into the sacred empty spot.

There are a lot of changes brewing for these three children. Your daughter is your ongoing primary concern, however, you are also having to adapt to two other children being an important part of your life. So while you are considering the promise of this romance, there are many perspectives to think about.

The kids’ exposure to the physical part of your relationship should be kept at G for General Audiences. Honor your daughter’s sensitivity toward seeing you smooch, just as you would be respectful of anyone who might be made uncomfortable by such a display of affection. You are setting an example, by the way, which will help her when she becomes a dater herself.

Family time should keep everyone in this new grouping in mind. You and your girlfriend set the parameters for when the get-togethers will occur, cost factors, etc., but there’s a fair rotation among everyone for choosing options when options are available. Since your daughter has only been an only child, she may need help with getting used to sharing family time. Time with a friend is one thing, but when that morphs into the friend’s mother and brother as part of the package, it gets a little tricky. Add to that the fact that you are forging relationships with each of these people, and that means she has a lot to get used to. Even though the amount of time she has with you is the same, she’s not used to seeing you divert your attention so much to other children, nor to a woman who has captured your heart. Continue to have time alone with her as much as is feasible.

If your romance progresses to a decision to combine households, there will be many practical matters to consider besides how many pots and pans one kitchen can hold. Read how to help everyone adjust to the new dynamics among you and what to expect in a step-parent role ..

The National Stepfamily Resource Center can lead you to local resources as well as helpful information to guide you through this chapter of your life.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood is a child development specialist in Annapolis. She holds a doctorate in Human Development from the University of Maryland at College Park and is founding director of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum. Long time fans and new readers can find many of her “Understanding Children” columns archived on the Chesapeake Family Magazine website. You can find her online at drdebbiewood.com.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments or submit a question to Dr. Debbie at Betsy@jecoannapolis.com

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