For single parents, dating can be both fun and exhilarating. The witty banter and stolen glances awaken the playful, sexy side of your personality that typically takes a backseat to your persona as Mom or Dad. Flirtatious, grown-up conversations are a welcome respite from discussions about play dates or lost homework, while seeing yourself through another person's eyes reminds you of your desirability.
The catch? You're a package deal now, so the dating stakes are higher. Your child will certainly feel the ripple effect of your relationship's many stages and phases, and that remains true whether you and your new love interest split or you're in it for the long haul. In other words, you need to proceed with caution. Here are some tips to help you tackle the tough questions that come with single-parent dating.
When should I introduce my kids?
This is a common question, and it's one that many single parents wrestle with. While there's no right or wrong answer, you want to be certain that you've given your relationship a significant amount of time to grow and experience the natural fluctuations of ups and downs. Ultimately, no matter how long you've dated, the bottom line is that you have to do what you feel is right for your children.
Consider the following factors before you introduce your kids to someone you're dating:
- The ages and emotional development of your children
- The length of time you've been dating
- The amount of time that has passed since the children perceived you as being "together" with their other parent
- How well you know this person personally
- What you know about him or her, if anything, from mutual friends
- How he or she handles stress and works through conflict
- How you plan to introduce him or her to your children
- Whether you both view this as a long-term relationship
- How quickly and easily your children get attached to other adults
How soon is too soon?
In the world of single parent dating, if you're asking this question, it might actually be too soon. If you're looking for hard-and-fast rules for when to introduce your children, look at two different numbers: how long it's been since your breakup, and how long you've been seeing the person you're dating now. If your kids might consider either of those numbers "too soon," then it's too soon.
If you're not sure, consider six months to a year as a conservative rule of thumb.
How can I help my kids adjust to the idea of mom (or dad) dating again?
The biggest thing to remember here is not to take your kids by surprise. They don't want to meet the person you're dating at the breakfast table, a school event, or an obviously pre-planned "accidental" meet-up at the mall or grocery store.
Instead, be intentional. Talk with your kids privately about what's going on, and be as honest as you can without giving them details they don't need to know. And then, when you're ready to introduce your kids to that special someone you've been seeing for a while, tell them. Even if your child pushes back and says they're not ready, you've made progress in the right direction by being open and honest. So give it time, and keep checking in now and then to find out how your kids are doing.
Despite your best intentions and precautions during the introduction process, your kids could still dislike your new S.O. Prepare yourself for that possibility, and be patient and supportive as you wait for your kids to come around.