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Dating tips for parents with teenage kids

Odds are you never thought you’d be back paddling in the dating pool at around the same time that your kids are entering it! Whether you’re newly single or a dating veteran, relationship coach Brett Jones gives some top advice for dating when you have teenage kids waiting for you at home.

The trickiest aspect of the whole situation is “how to get your head right when you have kids to take care of, and you are getting back into the dating game,” explains Jones, a relationship coach who not only talks the talk, but has also walked the walk.

When he and his first wife split, the former property developer had just lost his self-made $400 million empire. He had four children aged between two and 13 years, so he knows only too well the challenges that come with starting a new relationship when you have a family to consider.

“I lost all these things that I had in my life, including my marriage and four kids who I was only seeing on the weekends. I felt devastated but I was very clear that while I’d failed in that endeavour, I was not a failure in myself, so I set out to rebuild,” Jones explains. He went on to recreate his fortune, remarried and had two more children, and now runs his mentoring and leadership business Cre8 with his wife, Marie McCrystal-Jones.

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Be gentle

Jones, who recently authored the relationship book Forgotten Secrets of Lasting Forever, says his advice for those parents who are re-entering the dating world while also raising teenage kids is to approach each child in a manner that suits their personality.

“First, you have to know that each of your kids is going to take it differently depending on the individual,” he explains.

“Some will embrace your new ‘love’, while others will be insecure and try to stop you, perhaps out of loyalty to your ex-partner. So be gentle with them, explain that you are going to be dating again and why. Explain that you still care for your ex but you can’t live together anymore and you would like to find someone to share your life with again. Tell them you will still love them and the person you’re dating isn’t going to change that.”

Sense the mood

Be sensitive to your teen’s moods as they show you how they are taking the new relationship. “Teenagers won’t say much, but you will be able to tell by the surly looks or the fake smile to your new partner [how they really feel],” Jones says. “Encourage them to express their real feelings to you, then respond by reframing their concern as a positive.”

Jones also suggests that you actively discuss their responses with your new partner as well and present a united front to the kids in the strength of your relationship.

Allow time

“There will be a transition time to be mindful of,” Jones says. “If things get serious, you will be madly in love with your new partner and you mustn’t forget to balance your attention and time with the kids.”

If you forget to prioritise your relationship with your kids while you’re focusing on your new love match, there “will be hell to pay”, he adds — while if you get this balance right, you might find yourself moving towards a harmonious Brady Bunch situation.

Real mums share:

“I introduced my boyfriend to the kids about six months ago, although we’ve been dating for over a year. It has been difficult; my 15-year-old daughter doesn’t seem to mind when I’m out with my partner, but she copes better in small doses when he does come over. When he’s at our home, I always make sure I spend a few minutes talking one-on-one with my daughter so she feels I am not avoiding her.” — Caroline, 39.

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