When Your Senior Parent Starts Dating

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Losing a parent is difficult, and it can be even more challenging when the surviving parent starts to date again.  This is especially true for adult children of senior parents, because their mother or father has been defined for many years through his or her marriage.  Just as your parents may have disapproved of your teenage love interests, you may now find yourself in this very situation as roles are reversed, and he or she begins dating again.  It’s important to put yourself in your parent’s shoes.  He or she deserves happiness and companionship.  Yes, it can be difficult to watch a parent change as he or she tries to rediscover a new identity in life, but imagine how difficult it must be for him or her to suddenly be alone after all the years of marriage.  

Nobody can replace your deceased parent, and remember nobody is trying to.  In fact, this new partner my bring a welcome change and allow your family to move past grief, while still being able to hold on to cherished memories of your deceased parent.  It may also be helpful to view this new relationship as an opportunity to reduce your burden as a caregiver.  Your parent’s new love interest can provide companionship and give you more time for yourself and your home life. Aim for friendship with your parent’s new partner.  You need time to get to know each other.  Remember that this new partner is coming into an established family dynamic, and it can be equally uncomfortable and overwhelming for him or her too.  Focus on the positive aspects, welcome changes, and always assume the best intentions.  

Talking with your newly dating parent is the first step to becoming comfortable with this new chapter in your lives, but this can often be a difficult conversation to start.  In fact, research shows that nearly half of adult children are “not very” or “not at all” comfortable speaking to their mothers or fathers about their parents’ romantic lives.  

Here’s some humorous yet insightful advice from Mary Maxwell in response to Sandy who has asked if it’s appropriate for her mother, who was widowed after fifty years of marriage, to start dating.

If you’re struggling with this, you can find a wealth of resources on how to start the conversation at Caregiverstress.com

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