Straight Talk TNT: Father has new flame

By: Lauren Forcella
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Dear Straight Talk: I have been separated/divorced for 15 months. About nine months ago, following a rebound relationship, I met someone I’m serious about. I’m as surprised as anyone at how fast it happened. Because this woman is a big part of my life, I would like to introduce her to my son and daughter who are in college. Trouble is, my kids are still upset about the breakup even though it was mutual and there were no other love interests. I believe they feel protective of their mother, who is taking the divorce harder than I am. However, if I wait much longer I’m worried they will be upset that I’ve kept secrets. What do the panelists think is the appropriate time to know about a divorced parents’ significant other? It’s not like she is 20 years younger. She is my age and respectable. I want to make things best for everyone. ~ Monterey Hannah, 17, Safford, Ariz.: My parents divorced many years ago and it still hurts. My father began dating seriously, but he never told me or my siblings. When I discovered his secret girlfriend(s) through my own investigation, I was very hurt that he kept things from me. I felt I was less a part of his life and that he was separating from our “family” even more. Tell your kids. If they aren’t comfortable they don’t need to meet her yet, but it’s important that they know you care enough to keep them involved in the bigger aspects of your life. Elise, 19, Fair Oaks: Here’s what I learned from having divorced parents: Although you might find this woman respectable and wonderful, your kids may disagree, especially if they are protective of their mother. However, they still need to know. It is not fair to them, her, or your ex-wife to keep a serious relationship secret.  Lennon, 24, Fair Oaks: Just tell them. Yes, initially they may be angry or passive aggressive, but they’ll come around. Omari, 17, Wellington, Florida: Tell your kids!  Keeping a secret like this can damage your relationship with your children. Since the separation was mutual, your kids probably understand that you are not meant to be together. Also, please know that finding someone else quickly is not a bad thing. Life is about finding happiness. And if you are happy, this will make your kids happy (though maybe not at first). That the woman is your age helps, too. It’s not like you’re seeing someone your daughter’s age. It’s been nine months. Telling your kids is essential. It lets the woman know you are serious and lets your kids know they are important parts of your life. With no secrets, life is a lot easier to live. Nicole, 21, Grass Valley: Your kids are old enough to understand how relationships work. Be honest and tell them how you are feeling and that you are seeing someone. It’s only fair to them and to the woman you are seeing.  Justin, 22, Redding: If it was me, I would just want my dad to be happy. Dear Monterey: Divorce is one of the biggest stressors a child goes through. However, a bigger stressor, as I’ve noted in earlier columns, is a “missing” parent. Kids want and need emotionally connected relationships with their parents — this is the primary thing. It exceeds in importance the survival of the marriage. I agree with the panelists completely. Once a relationship is deemed “serious,” it shouldn’t be kept a secret (as opposed to less serious ones, which kids are best spared from). Even if your kids were younger, I’d tell them. Not doing so only separates you. Part of you becomes “missing” and they can feel that. Find more at __________ More from Lauren Forcella While I think many parents could work harder to save a marriage, sometimes divorce is the only solution. In working with at-risk kids, the thing that 95 percent of them had in common was what I call a “missing” parent. A parent can be missing in a variety of ways. It can result from physical absence due to adoption, death, a distant move, or prison time — or simply not being in touch with their child even though nothing prevents it. Other parents are emotionally missing due to illness, mental disorders or addictions. While a parent can be missing within a marriage, divorce often exacerbates the condition as parents become consumed by their own emotional upheaval and reinvention. Children don’t need to know everything about a parent’s life; some things are best left unshared. And younger children should be sheltered whenever possible from topics beyond their scope. But teenagers and emerging adult children should be kept in the loop of important issues and events in their parents’ lives, including work, finances, health problems, and significant relationships. Finally, no child is ever too old to be told, “Nothing about this divorce is, or has ever been, your fault.”