Q: I read your column all the time and often agree with you, but I recently read one where you admonished a man for moving across the street from his ex and kids and then becoming romantically involved with a woman who lived there. I think you were too tough on the guy. Your attitude seemed very conservative and rigid. It’s difficult enough to find someone that you really like in this day and age, and since his kids are teenagers, I really don’t think they will be that affected by their dad being romantically involved with the lady across the street.

A: If you write to us for our opinion, don’t be surprised when we give it to you. We think people are far too casual in attitude about dating in front of the kids, and the idea that the kids are teenagers and will not be affected by their parents’ dating style is just plain wrong. Teens are at a place in their lives when they are just becoming aware of their own sexual feelings and often find their parents’ romantic interactions “gross.” And they are greatly affected by how their parents handle dating. At a time when a child is looking for security and balance, if parental dating is not handled properly, very impressionable teens can be alienated from their parents and their parent’s new love interest. An alienated teen may gravitate toward questionable activity and friends without parental boundaries. The whole messy situation could be nipped in the bud if the parent just dated on his or her own time instead of the time they are supposed to be with their kids.

For the record, the teenagers mentioned in this reader’s question were 14 and 15. Dad now lives across the street with another woman when a very short time ago he was sleeping in the same bed as their mother. Kids, no matter their age, just don’t have the ability to compartmentalize that sort of behavior. Whether they say so or not, they have an opinion about it, and from our experience, they rarely think it’s no big deal. In fact, adult children of divorce are often the most opinionated on this subject.

We understand how hard it is to find someone you really care about after a breakup — we have both been there. But we also realized that both of our parenting plans allowed a fair amount of “free” time when the kids were with their other parent. That was an easy time to date, weed through the people who would not fit into our lives, and hopefully find someone who would become a serious partner. Once realized, that’s the appropriate time to introduce your love interest to your kids. Of course, that’s when the real problems start because you’re already invested in this person, but your kids are not. Many will still be in mourning after the breakup. That’s why it is so important to be particularly discerning when attempting to start over. 

Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband’s ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of “Ex-Etiquette for Parents,” are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com).

— McClatchy-Tribune