Think dating is difficult? Try dating with a five-year-old or fourteen-year-old watching your every move. Suddenly your romantic life is immersed in the morals, values, and integrity you’ve established for your children. Can you hold fast to them or are you just talking out of the both sides of your mouth?
Every single parent must remember they are showing their kids how to date: what to look for in a man or woman, how to act, how to be treated, is sex before marriage ok, is a lot of sex with a lot of different people before marriage ok?
Children notice a strange man in mom’s bedroom, they notice a half naked woman in the kitchen in the morning. They’ll quiz you incessantly about your date, did you like the guy, do you think you might get married to that woman. They’ll also be loaded with opinions about your dates: be ready to hear not that just “he’s nice” or “she’s pretty” but “he looks mean” or “She doesn’t like me, I can tell.”
So there are some proven suggestions for loving, caring parents who for one reason or another find themselves back in the dating game.
- Ask yourself — how important are your kids to you? This is a serious question. “I love them to death,” isn’t a serious answer. “I love them so much I’m willing to put off any relationship for a year or two or three,” is a serious answer. I’m not saying that’s always necessary, but sometimes it is. God put the destiny of these young children in your hands, you can’t be willing to throw it out the window for the first good-looking regional manager that walks into your life.
- If your first relationship ended in divorce, remember your kids probably still love their parent. They don’t want to hear how much nicer this new woman is than their mother. For awhile they won’t want to hear how much more you love this new person.
- You don’t have to, in fact you shouldn’t, introduce every date to your kids. This will only confuse them and let them build up false hope about a person they unexpectedly like.
- Let every date know you have kids. This will eliminate future complications with prospective partners who absolutely aren’t ready for the responsibility of kids.
- Do not let your kids find half-naked strangers roaming around your house in the early morning.
- When you feel a relationship has become serious enough to introduce the kids, keep everything low key. Maybe a picnic or trip to the zoo with young kids, so the focus isn’t on “the new person.” Older kids can be tougher or easier depending. Sometimes, if the parent is a widow, they just want their parents to be happy. Other times, if they are children of divorce, don’t expect them to love the new person overnight.
- Remember, somebody can be a fun date and suck at being a mom or dad. The more you’re around them, the more you’ll be able to tell.
- If things are getting serious, take your date to the PTA meeting. Let them know what their future looks like.
- If things get real serious, bring all the kids into the discussion of do we want this person as part of our family. Then tell him or her together.
Harry H Harrison Jr. is a NY TIMES best selling parenting author with some 4 million books in print. He has been interviewed on over 25 television programs, and is featured in over 75 local and national radio stations including NPR, throughout Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Norway, South America, China, Saudi Arabia and in the Far East. His books are available in over thirty-five countries. He is a featured expert at kidsinthehouse.com. For more information visit www.fearlessparenting.com.