At Ambiance Matchmaking, we have many members who are single parents. They come to us for advice on balancing their dating life with their parenting life. As I was coming out of a 17-year marriage and thinking of dating again with two children, I was also confronted with this issue. After lots of research and conversations with wise friends and mentors, I was able to navigate this tricky transition. I’ve written what I believe to be the eight most important steps in maintaining a healthy home environment while beginning to date again.
Communicate With Your Child
Depending on the age of your children, you need to communicate that you would like to start dating again. Keep in mind, their initial reaction may be anger or resentfulness. Listen and show concern. Do not overreact by yelling, judging or criticizing them or their feelings. And, do not ignore their feelings just because you are uncomfortable with what they are saying. The goal is to help them express their needs and feelings about the situation, and find the solution in moving forward.
Give Your Children Reassurance
Your children need to know that their relationship with you will not change because you are dating. If your child feels secure in their relationship with you, they are less likely to feel threatened or afraid. Don’t allow dating to interfere with visitation schedules or normal child/parent activities. Quality time tells your child they are important and you are paying attention to their needs.
Be Transparent In Your Dating Life
Never hide the fact that you’re a parent. This will only bring on feelings of guilt, and will make the conversation harder the longer you wait. If you’re freaked out about having a conversation, look at it this way, if they don’t want to be in a relationship with a parent, wouldn’t you want to know now rather than later?
Don’t Introduce Casual Dating Partners
Children become attached and suffer loss more easily. Having a revolving door with many short-term relationships in your child’s life causes ambivalence. It is wise to be discreet so that you will avoid causing confusing and stressful feelings in your child.
Plan A Casual Introduction
You should only introduce your date to your child if the relationship is becoming serious. Don’t plan a formal one-on-one introduction, over dinner, for example, which can become too serious and awkward. Rather, introduce them in a more casual setting, like a sports game.
Don’t Force The Relationship
Never force your child to meet or accept someone you are dating. It’s okay to expect your child to behave well, however, don’t dismiss their feelings or force your new relationship on them. Give your child time to get to know the new person in your life. If handled correctly, given time, your child will accept the relationship.
Keep Flirting To A Minimum
While your child is adapting to your new relationship, keep flirting to a very minimum. It can be awkward and uncomfortable for your child to see you kissing or making out with your date. Keep flirting light, such as holding hands, hugging, or a kiss on the cheek.
Don’t Allow Your Date To Discipline
Your children will respond to you better than your date. Until the new relationship has had time to become permanent, it is better that your date does not have authority over your child. Set boundaries for your children and teach them how to behave appropriately yourself.
Being single with children can be demanding and exhausting. Being sensitive and listening to their needs will promote a healthy family environment. Communication with your child is always the goal no matter the situation.