Advice: Dating with Children

Single with kids at home? Here are a few tips to help you are navigate dating sites as a parent.

1. Be upfront.

If you’re a parent, you have different dating needs than a childless dater does. Communicate those needs. For example, be honest about your need for flexibility and compassion in dating, as life with kids don’t always adhere to a perfect schedule. Be willing to hear a potential partner’s concerns, and understand that not everyone is going to want to date someone with kids. Wait for someone who does.

Note: When dating online, it’s important to protect your kids, too. Don’t post photos of them in your profile, or list any identifying information. Just write that you’re “a parent to two great kids” and leave it at that. A future date can learn the rest in person.

2. Take it slow.

Wait until you’re in a serious relationship before you introduce someone to your young children. You don’t want the kids growing more attached to your date than you are.

Before your date meets the kids, talk at length about what it means for him/her to be introduced to your family. Asking your kids to welcome in someone new is also asking your significant other to take his/her new role seriously.

3. Talk to your kids.

If you dating is something relatively new to your kids, they likely have a lot of questions and fears surrounding your new personal life. Be open with your children, reassuring them that they still take priority, and that you just need some “adult” time with your date, just as they need “kid” time with their friends.

Listen to their concerns, but remain firm if they seem dead-set against you dating for no reason but possessiveness. (You don’t need permission from your kids to date.) Respectfully establish that you are doing what’s best for you, and it in no way diminishes how much you care for your kids.

4. Make the introduction fun.

When it is time to introduce your kids to a new significant other, try to incorporate a fun activity you can all do together so the kids associate the meeting with something positive. You’re not trying to make your partner a buddy for your children, but you do want your kids to see a bit of what you like about him/her.

5. Set boundaries.

Boundaries: they’ll likely need to set and reset over time.

You’ll need to set boundaries in many areas, including:

• Discipline: your significant other shouldn’t dole it out.
• Sleepovers: save those for when the kids are with your ex.
• Date nights: your kids need to respect your weekly night out.
• Your kids’ other parent: he/she should meet your significant other around the time your kids do.

You won’t have everything figured out at the beginning — and you’re sure to make dating mistakes — and that’s okay. Admit those mistakes, apologize to your cancelled-on date or ticked-off kids, and, when in doubt, take things slow.

Just remember: your number-one priority should be protecting your kids. If your date isn’t someone who is good for your kids — for any reason — take that red flag very, very seriously. If you consider your kids when you date, they’ll (eventually) thank you for it.

Research:

eHarmony.com – Seven Tips for Dating a Single Parent

eHarmony.com – Dating Don’ts for the Single Parent

MetroParent.com – Dating with Kids

FamilyEducation.com – Dating After Divorce: What it Means for Kids

DateHookup.com – Living as the Brady Bunch: Dating with Children

Blogher.com – Advice for Dating People with Children (When You are Childfree)

About.com – Introducing Parent Dating Relationship to Children