1. How soon after divorce is it appropriate to start dating?
It depends on the individual, but many professionals will tell you that someone going through a divorce should wait at least six months to one year before even considering dating someone new on a serious level. From a lawyer's perspective, so long as that new person is not affecting your credibility or your ability to parent, dating does not matter. But . . . in family law, a lot of our advice is personal, as much as legal. For what it is worth: Nights out with friends are OK, often needed. Emotions are running high, and a person needs time to heal before putting herself back on the market. Some newly divorced or widowed people jump into relationships too early because they're afraid of being alone. That's almost always a mistake. The first year after a divorce is the time to re-group and focus on making new friendships. A woman can reflect on all the things she wanted to do when she was married but didn't. This is a rough time emotionally, but it helps to view it as a fresh start. It's the perfect time to re-develop a sense of self and decide what one really wants in life. A woman can consider what she hopes for in a new relationship and let go of the past in the process.
2. How long should the mother wait before introducing a new boyfriend to her children?
It depends on the child and the manner in which the divorce progressed. However, in general, she should know him at least six months to a year - again, following common patterns, though your case may be unique. Otherwise, if she decides after dating him for four months that the relationship is going nowhere, the children will inevitably feel another loss. If the new man doesn't respect that, he's probably not great boyfriend material. The first three months of a relationship is the honeymoon period. Everything is fresh and exciting. After around six months, the couple tends to relax and good behavior wears off. A woman gets to see what she's really dealing with.
3. What is the best way to introduce a new boyfriend?
Once a woman decides to start dating, she should explain it to each of her children in an age-appropriate manner. After she and a new partner have spent six months to a year together, she can start telling the children things about him, particularly what she likes about him or little stories about places they've gone together. This way the children understand that Mom is still Mom, which is critical, but they'll also see that she's happier.
4. How should she handle it if the child resents the new relationship? Should she stop seeing the boyfriend?
Children will often resent a new relationship for the simple reason that they now have to share their mother with someone else. A woman can reassure her children that even though she is going out, she is coming back home to them. She should continue do the things with them she always did. It's important to tread carefully. A new relationship is stressful for the whole family. If the children are really having a hard time with it, family counseling can get to the root of the problem, especially if all other avenues have been exhausted. The most important thing a single parent can do is to treat her children the same way she did before she met the new partner.
5. Is it ever acceptable to allow the boyfriend to sleep over, or should the couple book a babysitter and get a room?
Get a room, unless the kids are at Dad's for the weekend or this is a long-term, committed relationship. Children don't need to see some stranger coming out of Mom's room in the morning (or their Dad's, either). A new relationship is exciting and the partners are certainly entitled to time alone, but a single parent must handle it delicately and deliberately. Her (or his) behavior will instruct the children about man/woman relationships in ways they will carry around with them for the rest of their lives.
6. Focus on you
Go to the spa, get your hair done. You need and deserve to project a positive image inward and outward.
7. Be very careful of the "divorce groups"
Many women find that they start to group and socialize. This is an easy pattern to fall into. Stretch yourself and spend time with various pockets of friends.
8. Take care of your health
Join a gym and eat right. Many newly divorced find themselves eating alone a lot and eating a lot of unhealthy food. Fast food is not your friend.
9. Keep an eye on your finances
Nothing will hurt more than getting deep in debt. Before you were splitting expenses, and now you are likely on your own.
10. Community Activities
You may be relatively inactive in local events or deeply committed to your community. In either case, now is the time to intensify your level of activity. You will make new friends and possibly find that new love of your life.