Are you a newly single parent wondering how to date when you have kids? Probably the last time you were dating, you didn’t have children. Making the decision to date involves much consideration about your children and your family’s particular situation. Your choices about dating will affect your relationship with your kids as well as the well-being of your family. As the daughter of parents who were each married three times and as a single parent for 15 years, I look back from a wellness perspective to offer a checklist of ten points to consider and how to decide when it’s time for your date to meet the kids.
1. Are you ready to start dating?
This is an important question to ask yourself. Too often, we carry around old habits and hurts from our prior relationship. When we bring that baggage to a new relationship, we poison the water. We end up repeating relationship mistakes and wonder why we can’t find the right one. We certainly don’t want to take our kids down that path over and over again. Be clear about your readiness.
2. Be candid with your kids about the prospect of dating.
You need to communicate your feelings about wanting to date. However, be assured it’s your decision, not theirs.
3. Take into consideration the ages of your children.
Your child’s age makes a big difference when it comes to comprehending a new person in your life and potentially his life. If your child is old enough to have a conversation, then share your thoughts about dating and open a channel for communication. Regardless of age, your child needs to know he is loved and will continue to be the priority in your life.
4. Bolster your child’s confidence about your love for them.
Reassure your children that introducing a new person into your life will not mean they have to compete with that person for your love, nor will that person replace their other parent.
5. Share what’s happening with you on the dating front.
Just as you would like your children to communicate with you about their lives, they in turn want to know what’s happening with you. Otherwise, it feels to the child as though you’re being secretive or hiding something. Of course, this communication should be age and context appropriate. For example, “I met a very nice person today. He may be an interesting person to get to know.” Don’t lay things out for your kids that you wouldn’t tell your own mother.
6. Ask your kids if they are interested in meeting your date.
If you’re dating casually, maybe your kids want to meet the person/people you are dating. Maybe they don’t. Depending on your kids’ ages, ask your kids how they feel. This doesn’t necessarily mean a family date, but something simple, such as an introduction before you leave on a date. You would expect an introduction when your child starts dating. Perhaps, this is the time to set an example.
7. Investigate the person you are dating.
Be as certain as you possibly can that the person you are dating is safe. The first few dates may seem unbelievably fantastic, and too often, they are – unbelievable, that is. Remember, your and your children’s well- being are vulnerable when a new, untested person is introduced into your life.
8. Protect yourself and your family.
Dating can be challenging when you have kids to consider, but the bottom line is that your children are your priority. Your date may be the person you will spend the rest of your life with, but it’s likely that you’ll date many people before you find that special one. In the mean time, remember this: While dates may come and go, your kids will always be your kids. Their childhood will not last forever. You only get one chance. Do your absolute best to protect them from unsavory characters or situations.
9. Be clear with your date.
Just as you have assured your children that they are your priority, be clear to your date that your children are your priority. The person you are dating needs to respect that. You will no doubt want to establish some guidelines and boundaries in your dating relationships so there are no misunderstandings or hurt feelings.
10. Be happy.
Your children are very sensitive to your emotions. They want you to be happy. Help them to see that you are making choices that are good for your well-being and theirs and that these decisions bring you happiness. Life as a single parent has challenges, but it also provides tremendous opportunities to teach your children important life lessons about communication, healthy relationships, and the power of family. Taking time to work through this checklist can help you feel confident about your choices and the person you are dating. In turn, your kids will trust your judgment, respond to your happiness and grow to be well-adjusted adults.
Are you a single parent who is dating? How have you entered the dating world as a single parent?