This post first appeared on GalTime.com
Once you get divorced, there's always that pit in your stomach, especially if you have kids. Will it hurt them if you bring a new man into your life? When is it OK to start dating again? What will they think? Are you setting the right example? Issues such as jealousy and challenges with time-sharing are real. But I'd like you to consider the positives.
Yes, it's true that "a happy mother is a good mother." But I also believe that moms who date have a great opportunity to teach their kids -- especially their daughters -- essential lessons about taking care of themselves and interacting with boys.
What you knew...
How did you learn how to "be" with boys when you were young and maturing? Did your mom sit you down as you were entering puberty and have "one of those talks" with you? Did she maintain an ongoing honest conversation about it advising and supporting you along the way? Or maybe, like me, your mom had very little to do with your development in this area.
I never got much of an education from either of my parents about how to live in the world with boys. They were mostly just interested in whether I followed their rules, which were designed to keep me safe and keep them sane.
The most they ever gave me in the area of support or guidance was the customary "It's their loss, honey" when I was ignored or dumped. Those were just words, and I never believed it. And seeing their relationship surely didn't teach me much on the positive side.
Looking back with the perspective of a 50+ year old, my early education about selecting a companion, dating, and falling in love came from my friends, movies, and magazines. Armed with this going into adulthood, I was ill equipped to face the challenges of building healthy intimate relationships.
What you do...
As a mother of this generation, you no doubt get more involved than my mom, or probably yours. You talk to your daughter about her life and her loves, show her support, and build her self-esteem whenever possible.
The strongest lessons we learn, though, are from observing the behavior of others; especially those we love and respect. If you're married or have a life partner, your daughter will learn innumerable lessons about communication, appreciation, compromise, and intimacy.If you're a single mother who is dating, you have a wonderful opportunity to model other behavior in a positive way. By bringing your daughter into your experience she could learn so many important lessons. She could learn about:
- Maintaining her self esteem in knowing that she is not defined by whether a boy or man likes her.
- Making choices based on thoughtful consideration and what's good for her - rather than going on pure emotion.
- Pausing when necessary to ensure good outcomes.
- Setting clear boundaries in advance, and then adhering to them.
- Honoring and respecting herself, as well as the people she meets and spends time with
- Maintaining awareness for her safety; both physical and emotional.
- Trusting her instincts.
- Seeking support when she needs it.
Of course, there are guidelines and limitations to what and how you share. I'm not suggesting that you divulge your most private feelings, what you do on dates, or any other intimacies.
What I'm suggesting is letting your daughter learn by example that there are things we can do to ensure we are respected, make good choices, and stay safe. You can let her know that we can have fun while focusing on what's best for us. And that when we do, nice things can happen in our lives.
For the most part, the days of girls learning everything from her friends and from Cosmo magazine are over. Mothers are far more involved in their daughters' lives and are talking and listening.
Sharing your dating and relationship experiences may be uncomfortable, or seem unnecessary. But remember that your example has the strongest influence on your daughter. And what is more important than teaching your daughter how to love herself while building relationships that are satisfying, healthy, and safe?
Bobbi Palmer is The Dating and Relationship Coach for Women over 40 for GalTime.com. She's also the founder of DateLikeaGrownup.com. If you're single, scared you'll be alone forever, and losing hope of ever finding a special man to share your life...she will help you Find Hope and then teach you how to find HIM.