When Single Parents Have "Overnight Guests"

It's hard to know how to conduct your sex life after a divorce, especially if you have children in the home. How you lead your private life is a model for what your children may do when they become mature enough to have sex.

Starting Over

Many moms and dads become single again after years or decades of marriage and wonder how they can start to have a personal life. Sometimes they start dating again, but forget about the effect of adult intimacy on their children.

You will have to be careful about introducing a new love into your life. You must think about the message you're sending young children.

The message here is don't rush it. Take your time and adjust to your new circumstances. Remember, if you are having a hard time, your children are too.

Moreover, the older the children, the greater their disdain if new lovers start sleeping over too soon after the divorce. Some single parents even resort to secretive behavior, making sure a lover is out of the house by the time the children are up and about. Needless to say, family experts suggest a few more truthful and careful approaches.

Put the Children First

Use this time to improve or mend your relationship with your children if you need to. You can focus on your children's care in a new way without the strain of your marital problems. Spend more time with your children and forge some new, lasting bonds. You and your children can navigate your new lives together.

When children feel secure in all the various post-divorce arrangements, it becomes easier to accept a new person into the circle. However, if the children are unsure about mom or dad's affection, they will feel threatened, or feel they are competing for dad or mom's time and attention. The ugly effects of jealousy will then proceed to make domestic life difficult.

Take It Slow

When a new love interest does start to bloom, move slowly. Even under the best of circumstances, acceptance of an outsider is tough for children. And that is doubly true when children can only see a parent on weekends. If you try to share your children's time with a new love right away, feelings of resentment may develop. If you are dating, your children don't have to meet all of your dates. Wait until you meet someone with whom you may develop a serious relationship.

Try to avoid situations that may cause conflict, such as open, inappropriate affection, or getting caught in a lie. It will be uncomfortable at first, but it's best to be open with your children and address any concerns or objections.

In addition, your children's safety comes foremost, and you need to make sure there is no chance your new partner is inclined toward any type of abuse. Another danger involves jumping in too quickly with a new love and allowing the children to become attached to the newcomer. If the adults do not take the time to really get to know each other, this can lead to an end of the new relationship.

Build Friendship

When you do meet someone special, find a balance between spending too much time away from your children and too much time as a new family unit. Often, there is far too much friction between the children and a new lover. That's usually because the new person tries to act like a substitute parent right away. The best way for a new person to get acquainted with your children is to just be a friend first. Leave parenting to the parent, and try to get to know the children long before sleeping over.

Try dating a person who is playful, lighthearted, and fun with your children. One who is willing to be introduced into the lives of the children slowly and who enjoys a healthy mix of adult-only and children-included activities. This person is probably a good catch if he or she shows respect and adoration for you with your children and respects the boundaries that you set.

Avoid Hostility With the Ex

Yet another complicating factor is the degree of hostility between the divorcing couple. If bitterness is high and the parents are fighting with little effort put into co-parenting, new lovers are likely to receive a constant cold shoulder from the children.

Be Truthful (Within Reason)

When a new love does start spending the night, experts recommend answering children's questions completely but offering no additional information about what goes on in the bedroom. For teens, some experts say it might be a good idea to add that you are practicing safe sex.

It Takes Time

According to experts, it usually takes about 2 years for the new love to get to know the children. It can take 5 years before a blended family operates smoothly, with affection and respect all around. When the time comes, tell the children you are in a special relationship with somebody who is important in your life. And that he or she may stay overnight once in a while.


American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

Mental Health America


Canadian Mental Health Association

Canadian Psychological Association


Children and divorce. American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry website. Available at: Updated December 2013. Accessed July 27, 2017.

Dating after divorce. Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics website. Available at: Updated May 5, 2015. Accessed July 27, 2017.

Dating after divorce. Two of Us website. Available at: Accessed July 27, 2017.

Last reviewed July 2017 by Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 7/23/2015