It goes without saying; our children are an integral part of our lives. Do not downplay the fact that you have children or in any way “apologize” for their existence in your life. Stop wasting time on anyone that you feel discounts you because you have children; children are part of the package.
Obviously, for a host of different reasons, some people are just not interested in dating someone with children. So what! Get over it! Once you realize this, you can move ahead to someone that welcomes the children in your life. Although you want someone you date to know about your children when the relationship is in its infancy, make sure your present yourself as an individual with lots to offer a relationship – not just your role as a parent.
Statistically, persons with strong family ties make the best potential partner for a single parent. When you date someone that has close relationships with their parents, siblings, nieces and nephews and children (if they have them), you know you are dating a person that values family. Although there are exceptions, a person who has never been married and does not exhibit close family relationships is unlikely to have the patience or motivation to become any kind of permanent part of your family dynamic.
When you are a single parent with young children, getting back in the dating game and attempting to develop a meaningful relationship requires some adjustment to your schedule; flexibility and patience are required. Be prepared for the unexpected circumstances such as children getting sick, babysitters cancelling at the last minute or school events popping up that can intrude on the best of plans. Try to have a “back up” sitter in reserve or an alternative plan for your date that can include a movie night at home or an activity in which the children can participate.
If your date is upset or complaining when you have to change a dinner reservation or cancel plans because of a situation with the children that requires your attention, you may want to consider if this is someone that will fit into your life. Your children come first. If your new date doesn’t understand your commitment and parenting responsibilities, they are unlikely to be accommodating when a similar situation arises in the future.
When Children Learn The You Are Dating
The role of a single parent is challenging enough without the added anxiety and stress of getting back into the dating scene. No matter their age, children are vulnerable in the aftermath of divorce. Parents with children face difficulties those not yet dating have yet to experience.
The majority of single parents say that the biggest problem is the reaction of the child when they learn that you are dating. Because it is impossible to know or predict how your child will react to the news, it makes it even more difficult to share the news.
Before you start dating, discuss the prospect with your children. Young children do not understand the concept of dating so it is best to just say your were spending time with your friends when they ask about your absence. With older children, it is very important to discuss dating and give them the opportunity to talk about how they feel about you starting to date. Realize that older children may be resentful of a new person in your life or just need time to adjust to the idea that you are dating.
Offer Young Children Reassurance
Before starting to date someone new, explain to your children why you are dating and reassure them that no one will replace their other parent. No matter their ages, let kids know that they are your number one priority and that you will always be there for them, no matter whom you are dating.
When discussing dating, stress the friendship aspect and downplay any romantic involvement. If children are anxious, resistant or negative, don’t become defensive or ignore your own needs in deference to their feelings. Acknowledge children’s feelings; give extra hugs and attention but do not allow them to manipulate you with guilt.
If you do introduce your children to the new man or woman in your life, understand and acknowledge to yourself that adolescents, tweens and teens will be more affected by a breakup than toddlers. It is confusing and cruel when children become attached to a new person in your life only to have that person disappear; a passing fancy.
It is best not to introduce your kids to an array of different people. To do so sends mixed signals and can cause conflict. To maintain trust and stability, avoid parading a bunch of dates before your kids, only introducing someone new after you have determined that the person you are dating will have a long-term place in your life.
Children are complex; “as different as snowflakes.” As a parent, you know when the timing is right to introduce the new person in your life to your child or children. Don’t rush it.
It isn’t necessary to tell your ex that your are dating; it is none of their business as long as your activity does not affect your children. However, if you develop a relationship with someone new that has progressed to the point you want to introduce that person to your child or children, it is best to tell your ex first. After all, you would appreciate the same consideration.