Child Behavior Expert Forum
Single Parenting and Dating
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Single Parenting and Dating

I am a single mother of a 4 yr. old girl.  I began dating in August of 2002.  My daughter really loves my boyfriend and likes to spend time with him.  I began taking her out on dates with me two months ago (after I saw that things were serious with my boyfriend).  We plan on getting married in the future.  My boyfriend did not want to hug me, kiss me, or hold my hand, until my daughter got used to the idea of our relationship.  Now, he will hug me or hold my hand and kiss me hi and bye, but my daughter gets really upset.  I have tried talking to her, but nothing seems to work.  She gets upset when she sees him around me and starts hitting me or throwing things at me and yells, "You messed up with me!"  I am not sure what to do.  I love my boyfriend, but I love my daughter.  Is this behavior normal and how can I deal with it?
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It is not at all unusual for children in such circumstances to display some upset around their parent's romantic involvement. The upset can be generated by a number of concerns, including (a) consternation that their biological parent is being 'displaced' by the new person, (b) evaporation of the hope that the biological parents will come together, (c) reluctance to share their parent's attention. While your daughter is entitled to her emotional response, and it would be good to talk with her about this (e.g., to ask her what she means when she remarks that you 'messed up with me'), do not permit aggressive behavior as a way of expressing her disapproval. Set firm limits on this. The anger is permissible; hurting you is not. When you say that you 'take her out on dates with me', what are you referring to? Be sure that the activity is something that is appropriate for her.
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Not the doc, but I was a single mom for 5 years. My daughter only had me for five solid years and then I started to date. At first, she was acting as your daughter, but after about 9 months, her behavior stopped and she started to really enjoy the affection between me and my now husband. He has since adopted her. The only suggestion I can make is that you keep the displays of affection between you and boyfriend to a minimum when she is with you. She is scared and feeling insecure and that's why she acts out. Try to make her the focus when the 3 of you go out. You won't have to do this forever, but until she gets used to seeing Mom being affectionate with someone other than herself. Hang in there. If she has no other valid reason, don't destroy your relationship because of this. She will come around.
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