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The Competent Parent: When Dad Has a Girlfriend


Welcome to our weekly online series on parenting advice with local expert Dr. Deborah Wood.

Girlfriend Protocol


Dear Dr. Debbie,

I have a quick question for you.  I have had an exclusive, romantic relationship with the same woman, “Serena,” for over a year.  We are in love with each other and committed to making it a long-term relationship. Serena has a son, 20 and a daughter, 17, and I have a son, 14 and daughter, 11.

The kids know and like Serena and she likes them as well and we all get along fine together.  I also get along fine with Serena’s kids. Serena has never yet slept over at my place with me while the kids were there nor have I done so at her place.

We are both coming to realize that our relationship has grown to the point that the days of hiding this from our kids are numbered.  I was wondering what your take on this is.



Dear Wondering,

“Committed?”  “Long-term?”  Are you talking about marriage?  Staying overnight– as everyone but perhaps your eleven-year-old knows – implies sexual intimacy.  The best example you can set for your children, and Serena’s, is that leeping over happens when you’re married.  Sorry, that’s probably not what you wanted to hear.   Children just don’t want to have to think about their parents being involved in sexual relationships.  So, you are discreet out of respect for them.  Ditto for your parents.  When it comes to the sexual encounters of minor children, parents have a responsibility to be a resource for information, guidance, and moral standards.

Your children will be making romantic decisions for themselves soon, and they will be guided, in part, by their impression of what you consider appropriate.

Dr. Debbie

 Dr. 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 www.drdebbiewood.com


What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments.



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