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Mother Wants to Show Affection for New Beau

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: At what point is it appropriate to be affectionate with my boyfriend in front of my children? I have been separated for over a year (there is a one-year separation requirement before divorcing in this state), and I've met someone I am serious about. My children, ages three and five-and-a-half, know about him and have met him once. He is reluctant to hold hands or kiss in front of them. Although I share his concern, I find it difficult to restrain my touchy-feely nature.

A: I think that your boyfriend is showing admirable and sensitive restraint by his reluctance to kiss you or hold hands with you in front of your children. You mention that they know about him, yet have only met him once. He has not become a visible, real factor in their lives.

At five and three, your kids have no doubt had difficulty understanding why you and their daddy have separated and will be divorced. They do not need to be further confused or frightened by your acting "touchy-feely" with another man in their presence.

I would introduce your boyfriend into their lives gradually, preferably while doing things with them outside your home. If they know you to be a physically affectionate person with the men and women in your life, then some level of physical affection between you and your boyfriend would not be inappropriate in their presence. However, at this point, that affection should be like the affection you show others whom they know.

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.

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