Some tips for single parenting and dating.
You met. You dated. You married. You had kids. You figured you’d no longer have to endure the exhausting whirlwind of single life. Then…KABOOM! You’re divorced. Now you’re torn—do you abandon all hope of romantic interlude and settle for house slippers and the nine o’clock news or do you toss the kids a few bucks for pizza and paint the town red?
You’re a single parent. You struggle to balance work and family responsibilities—a daunting task to handle solo. You are the mother and the father. You want to date but don’t want to abandon your child. Do you throw caution to the wind or send your dancing shoes into permanent retirement?
Fortunately you can do both. Unfortunately, what will be an enormous transition for you could be a catastrophic transition for your kids if you aren’t careful.
Putting yourself back on the market needn’t be a stressful, nerve-racking transition. Ideally, it’s an exciting new beginning that you should enjoy every second of. But in an effort to sidestep complications, remember to have a heart-to-heart with your kids beforehand. Tell your children about dating and why you need to do it. Try your best to exclude negative personal details about your former spouse (if applicable)—failing to do so will drive a wedge between the children and that parent; the result of which can devastating. When parents separate, children are often left feeling alone and betrayed. Even if your children have never had two parents, introducing a new person into their lives without warning can be painful and confusing. Explain that they’ll never be pushed aside, forgotten or replaced. Most importantly, assure them that they’re loved. Also, respect them by letting them know you’ll never move ahead with new person if they feel uncomfortable. This helps reassure them that they’re a respected, important part of your life.
The very first time you waltz through that door with someone new, your kids will likely react unfavorably. If this is their first introduction, they might hide, smart off or guard their territory (you and their home). Until now, they may have never seen you with anyone else, and it’s scary. Picking your battles, so to speak, is the key to avoiding an inevitable host of nasty consequences (guilt, embarrassment, self loathing). Keep some guidelines in mind when stepping into new waters.
Don’t make everyone you date a part of your children’s lives. This certainly shouldn’t minimize your dating arena, but unless you plan to marry everyone you get dressed up for, use discretion when deciding whom to bring home. If you’re in a casual relationship, consider rendezvousing at restaurants as opposed to your living room. Don’t always suggest a night cap at your place if the kids are home. Rather, enjoy each other’s company elsewhere. The objective here is not to be secretive, but to prevent your children from becoming attached to someone impermanent. If your little ones are curious, tell them you’re going on a date, but leave it at that.
If you’re dating seriously, integrate that person into your children’s lives like you would fat-free cream cheese or exotic fruit. If the change happens too quickly, they’ll dig in their heels and turn up their noses. Letting the kids suggest some family activities is a great way to smooth the transition—everything from board games to picnics in the park.
Dating is fun and exhilarating. Proceeding with caution is the best way to ensure that you and your kids have a pleasant, fulfilling experience.