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Child abuse is a topic that is disheartening to think about, but is the elephant in the room that needs to be acknowledged. The more awareness we can draw to child abuse and what causes it, the more likely we are to be able to prevent it.

According to U.S. Census data, of the 74 million children aged 18 and under, 25% of them live with a single parent, most often the mother. And while it is in our nature to cohabitate and find love, these single parents do not stay single forever, as most single parents that are divorced end up remarrying for the 10-years following their divorce.

When a single mother is the parent of a minor, however, the chance of remarrying is much lower, most likely because many mothers hesitate before introducing a stranger to their children. And for good reason.

According to Aha! Parenting, “If their parents find new partners, [they] are 40 times more likely than those who live with biological partners to be $exually or physically abused.”

This is extremely scary when you think about the rising number of divorces.

In another Missouri-based study, which observed children who live in households with unrelated adults, children are “nearly 50 times as likely to die of inflicted injuries as children living with two biological parents.”

To put these statistics into context, it’s important to note that when parents divorce, there is no longer a parental team working together within a household to protect their child. In turn, things are overlooked, and a new person is introduced who has no relation or interest in the child, but instead is more focused on the single parent.

Additionally, when step-children are also present because abuse is 23% likely to happen at the hand of another child, there are even more dangers present.

So what can be done? Here are some tips shared by Aha! Parenting writer Dr. Laura Markham,

1. Delay Dating

“Your priority is your child’s emotional health, and that means not subjecting your child to a new partner or a series of partners,” Markham says. “Your child has a lot of adjusting to do, and adding the element of a potential new partner for you will increase their anxiety and decrease the emotional bandwidth you have to support them. To stabilize your child’s life for at least a year before you even think about dating. You will probably feel panic about being alone. Deal with that panic, rather than rushing into a relationship. You will end up with a better relationship as well as a happier child.”

2. When you do decide to date, move slowly.

Markham explains that it’s important not to rush to introduce a new partner to your children. First and foremost, your child is going through something difficult and needs time to adjust. Additionally, you need to take time to get to know someone and make sure they are safe to have around your children.

3. New partners should NEVER discipline your kids.

A new partner is not a new parent. Instead, think of them as family friends. Why? Markham says there is “too much of an opportunity for abuse of power.”

“Your child is YOUR responsibility.” Because your child didn’t choose divorce, they need more from you more in the circumstances of the divorce, not less.

Honestly, I couldn’t agree more. While I am not saying that you should just never date again, it’s not hard to take your time and get to know someone before allowing them in your child’s life. If and when you do introduce them, there should most definitely be boundaries.