Dating and the single parent

Here are a few tips to make dating easier on you and your kids.
Now that you’re separated or divorced, everything is different. Take dating for instance, before you got married, you wondered when to introduce your boyfriend to your parents; now, it’s your children you have to worry about. How times change.

Many single parents avoid the whole question of dating by devoting all their time outside of work to their children. At first glance, this seems like the “right thing to do,” and it’s probably what your children would say they wanted if you were to ask their opinion. But this is not a healthy approach for an adult, and after awhile, you will begin to crave some adult companionship. Adult interaction is very important for keeping parents on even ground, and it allows them to share their feeling with others who may have gone through the same thing.

As a single parent, you have adult needs for intimacy, understanding, companionship, reassurance, encouragement and romance that can only be fulfilled by another adult. You don’t want to run the risk of depending on your children for everything, this would be very unhealthy plus, you don’t want to burden your children with that much responsibility. On the other side of the coin, don’t feel you have to run out and find a new mate to provide another parent for your kids. Many women have made that mistake before and unfortunately everybody looses out when that happens because nobody’s happy.

Where to start
Before taking on a new relationship, think about what you’re looking for in a companion. What specific qualities are you looking for? What specific qualities will complement you, your children, and your lifestyle? What type of companionship are you seeking: do you need a friend, a date, or are you hoping to remarry? Are you willing to date another single parent, or is dealing with your kids all your willing to put up with at this time? Dating may be a whole new world to you at this time in your life so how do you think your children feel about it?

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There are many discussion groups, workshops, and children’s programs that can help you decide on which way you want to go. You can ask your children if they want to get involved in something like a group discussion also. If you don’t know where to go to meet other single parents, one suggestion of a divorce support group may be a good idea for you. Once a week is usually a good time to get away and interact with other adults, it really doesn’t matter what you do, just get out of the house and away for awhile.

Kids’ reactions
Children of divorced parents are usually pretty negative when it comes time for them to start dating. Your children may see your dates as competition for your love and attention, and it will damage or destroy their fantasies that you and you ex will get back together. Your dating can also reawaken the fears of abandonment they felt when you split up with their other parent. You may not realize how traumatized your children really are over your divorce. You will need to reassure them, probably many times, that they are the most important things in your life and you love them very much.

Try to explain to them that because you’re an adult, you need some adult companionship every once in a while. Just because you may start dating again does not mean that you don’t love them anymore. Keep communication between you and your children, and don’t start telling them stories or lies about what may be going on, thinking that your doing them some favor by keeping certain things away from them. Children know the difference, and the once thing you cannot afford to do is alienate your child from you. You need their complete trust if you want them to come to you when ever they have a problem.

Consider your children’s needs carefully before you expose them to a potential partner. You are better equipped emotionally to handle a series of up and down dating relationships than your children. Also, give your children whatever amount of time they need to adjust to your new lifestyle. Talk to them openly about your need for adult companionship. Lovingly reassure them that no relationship will come between you and them.

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Introductions
When you decide that your children are ready to meet your date, try a movie or dinner. Don’t start with him or her spending the night. After the children get to know and establish a relationship with this new person, then and only then can you expect your kids to be able to handle waking up to a new person in the house. Your children may try to sabotage or throw temper tantrums in the beginning of meeting your guy, but hopefully that too shall pass with a little time.

You will have to be patient with you child through all of this and not rush them or worse, demand that they like your boyfriend. All their lives it was you and their father together, and then suddenly things changed and children don’t like some changes just like adults, so be patient. You do not have to accept intolerable behavior from them either. They should respect you no matter what, so let them know where the line is drawn. You cannot make your child like your boyfriend, but let’s hope that eventually they will get used to the idea and they will be happy for you.

Making time for your kids
When you meet someone new and there is some chemistry between the both of you, this is a very exciting time for you and a new romance is always invigorating for the soul. Just don’t forget that you still have children and you still need to be there for them.

You must make spending time alone with your children a priority when a new relationship is taking shape. If you’re a non-custodial parent, or if your children are with you for short periods of time, make sure to have lots of one-on-one time when your kids are visiting. Don’t forget to let them know how much they mean to you and that they are a very important part of your life

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Overnight Guests
The touchy issue of your boyfriend spending the night for the first time is always terrifying. And there isn’t a “one size fits all” says Jill Fein who advises single parents to listen to their instincts. “If you aren’t ready to field questions about having your new partner stay over and feel uneasy about the situation, don’t issue the invitation.”

Many single parents avoid having an overnight guest until they’ve been with the person for several months, when their children are comfortable with him being around, and they see that your relationship is long term. It’s okay to have your partner over and stay late, just try to tell your children before this happens so you won’t have to explain yourself with them in the morning.

You and your children are going to be very nervous the first time everyone is introduced, just imagine how anxious your boyfriend must be feeling at this time also. They will be full of questions, so it may be a good thing to prepare your guy for the attack. Be honest, and direct, and make your answers age appropriate. Hopefully everything will work out for the best and eventually you will have a big happy family if all goes well. Try to make the best of this situation and enjoy each others company. Stress this to your children also, and don’t forget to assure them that you will love them always.

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