Dating as a parent is tricky. Whether you’ve found love or you’re thinking about dipping your toe into the adult dating world, there’s a lot to figure out. One of the biggest challenges is deciding when and how to bring kids into the loop.
The answer to such a monumental decision will vary depending on your unique situation. We can all agree that the life of a single parent is hectic. After all, you’re responsible for your kids’ physical and emotional well-being 24/7. With so much at stake, you may be tempted to keep your kids and dating life separate.
You don’t need to shut love out for the sake of your kids. Keep reading to learn how and when to introduce your kids to the person you are dating.
Prepare Your Kids in Advance
Transition your kids into the idea of you being in a new relationship hypothetically before you’re actually in one. Give them the opportunity to ask questions, and assure them that you value their thoughts so when the time comes, your dating won’t be such a shock.
You may be surprised by how open the kids are to the idea of their parent being happy with someone else. Plus, if they’re not immediately okay with things, you’re giving them time to adjust to the idea before you actually bring someone new into their lives.
Take It Slow
Kids tend to think in black and white. They might have a hard time dealing with casual dates coming and going, so ideally, you should wait until you’re certain the relationship is going somewhere before introducing them to someone new.
Tim, a 45-year-old single father of three has not yet taken the step of letting his kids meet the women he’s dated. “It’s a huge step, and it adds a whole other level,” says Tim. “The relationship doesn’t have to be forever, but it has to hold that promise. I don’t want them to get attached to someone only to have it not work out.”
If you feel the relationship is stable and you can see a future with your significant other, discuss when he or she would be ready to meet your children. Chances are if your partner feels ready to meet your kids, your kids will feel at ease meeting him or her, too.
Be an Adult With Your Ex
Have an agreement with your kids’ other parent about how you both want to handle the subject. Even though you and your ex-partner are no longer committed to each other, you are both committed to being the best parents you can be. Kids don’t do well with mixed messages (who does?) so get on the same page before speaking to them.
Let your kids know that your new love is not replacing their other parent to ease some of the pressure and feelings of betrayal. Without the internal conflict, they’re more likely to accept the new person and understand that the relationship is enhancing your lives – not taking away from what they know.
Have Clear Priorities
When you meet someone new, bring up your kids early in the conversation and establish that they’re your first priority. Make sure your potential partner is comfortable with the idea of being a parental figure should the relationship progress.
After her divorce, Amy, a 42-year-old single mother, jumped back into adult dating with a very different attitude. “Back in my 20s, I was looking for someone who ticked all my boxes for my perfect husband,” said Amy. “Now, I’m thinking about who my daughter would feel comfortable with; she comes first – always.”
Acting coy or holding back for fear that the love interest may reject you because of your kids won’t do you any favors. You’d rather find out early on that he or she is not a good fit for you.
Meet on Neutral Ground
When the time is right to introduce your partner to your kids, Psychology Today suggests a neutral location outdoors. Jamie, a 35-year-old single mom planned a day at the beach with her kids and invited her girlfriend. “It was less intense than it would have been in a formal setting,” said Jamie. “The day is still looked back on with a feeling of happiness.”
Dating is more complicated as a single parent than as a childless single person. Your priorities are different and your time is limited. Pragmatism is essential with adult dating, but real romance is possible. Don’t let fear hold you back from something that could enhance not only your life but also your children’s.