Everyone knows that dating is complicated under the best of circumstances. Add children into the picture, and things can get doubly complex.
But complications need not keep a single parent from dating successfully. Careful planning and wise decision-making can lead to an enjoyable dating life—and who knows, maybe even the fabulous partner you’ve been looking for.
Here are 15 thoughts to consider, whether you are just starting to date or pondering a future with someone you’ve been dating a while:
1. Ensure safety first. Naturally, your child’s safety is priority number one. So enlist the help of your mother or most reliable babysitter. This is for your benefit, too, so you can relax and enjoy your date without worrying.
2. Be upfront about your status. It isn’t always easy to bring up the fact that you have kids when considering going out with someone new. But it’s best to put it out there from the get-go and avoid surprises later on.
3. Carefully consider potential partners’ interest in family matters. If you’re attracted to someone who isn’t interested in a lifestyle that includes a child, but expects you to fit into his/her childless lifestyle, this scenario has “red flag” written all over it.
4. Don’t bring a parade of potential partners through your kids’ lives. Be selective who you date and especially selective about who you bring into your children’s lives.
5. Be cautious about social media. Don’t post information about your children on your dating profile. This includes photos of you with your children or information about them, including names, ages, or where they go to school.
6. Get ready to be flexible. Kids’ needs won’t fit neatly into your dating agenda. If you’re going to date, you’ll need patience, adaptability, and improvisation.
7. Understand that kids will be the priority—for both adults. It can be frustrating when you have to cancel a date (maybe for the third time) because a child is sick or needs help with homework. It’s part of the deal.
8. Realize that kids have their own emotional agenda. When dating, it’s hard enough to sort through your own feelings. But kids often add their own into the mix. Listen carefully and honor those emotions.
9. Take your time. Rushing into a new relationship is not advisable under any circumstance, but especially when children are involved. If your romantic relationship gets serious, the next steps will greatly affect your child.
10. Err on the side of caution when introducing a potential partner to your kids. Children may be fearful about what changes a new person in your life will bring, or they may get their hopes up about a permanent relationship. Either way, it’s best to wait for introductions until there is a commitment between you and your partner.
11. Do not put your child in the role of confidante. You can be open about your feelings without sharing information that is too sensitive or detailed. To process your thoughts and feelings, bend the ear of your best friend, sibling, or therapist.
12. Don’t expect your kids’ approval. Of course you want to handle your children’s feelings sensitively, but (depending upon the child) he or she may not want to “share” you with someone else. There’s a fine balance between honoring your child’s wishes and honoring your own.
13. Be realistic. After introductions, be careful not to expect too much from your new relationship too soon. Someone who has never had kids will need plenty of time to develop his/her own relationship with your children.
14. Enjoy being more than a parent. You take your parenting responsibility seriously. But that is not all you are. It’s okay to think of yourself a multifaceted human being. Get a baby-sitter, relax, and treat yourself to an evening on the town.
15. Keep your dreams alive. You’re a parent forever, but you don’t need to be a SINGLE parent forever. Someone out there is going to love you—and your children—wholeheartedly.