Dating Do’s and Don’ts for Single Parents
Fully 50% of American children experience the divorce of their parents some time before they turn 18, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. And most of their parents remarry within five to 10 years. So if you’re in this situation – if you’re a single parent who is getting back in the dating game – how do you handle this with your kids?
Keep in mind that all children are more aware of what’s going on than you might imagine. So unless your child is an infant, pay attention to the following truths. For simplicity’s sake, these bits of advice are written for mothers but they apply equally to fathers.
1. No one will ever replace your child’s biological parent. So never suggest that this is the point of dating – that you’re looking for a “new daddy.” Your child already has a daddy, and I hope not only that he’s an important part of your child’s life but that you make it easy for your ex and your child to have a positive relationship. That relationship is important because it’s going to last a lifetime.
2. Your child is still a child. While you’re looking for a new love, do not make the mistake of moving your child into the empty Partner slot as a placeholder. Your son is not the new “little man of the house.” Your daughter is not your girlfriend and confidante. Not only does doing this place unreasonable burdens on young shoulders but it sets up a confrontation if you find a mate and this person appears to move into your child’s turf.
3. Your dates should be kept at a distance. You don’t want your child to perceive your dating as some sort of revolving door. At the same time, you don’t want to feel pressured to get serious with someone faster than you otherwise would simply because your child likes that person. So stay vague when you go out for the evening about whom you’re seeing. Your children do not need to know the names of these gentlemen. You’re just going out “to see some friends.” Do not bring a guy home to meet your kids or even go to the zoo together until you’re pretty sure this relationship could go somewhere.
4. Your sex life is private. If your children are old enough to have an understanding of sex, you may be asked questions. Never lie but do not feel you need to tell your child more than you’re comfortable with. Saying, “I’m sorry, but that’s private” is perfectly appropriate. At the same time, do not permit your sexual activity to be so obvious that no child could ignore it. Dial down the passion and petting when your kids are around. If your man sleeps over, get him out of the house before the children are up. It’s one thing for your children to see this person in the evening, dressed for dinner. It’s entirely another if they see him in his skivvies at breakfast. This is what babysitters and sleepovers are good for.
5. How your new love treats your children is a hint what your future will be like. If your favorite beau seems to be competing with your kids for your attention, if he is uncomfortable around them or wants too much control, if he constantly tells you what you’re doing wrong or how the kids’ biological parent was all wrong, these are bad signs. Your household will not be happy, you will feel pulled in two different directions, and this relationship likely will not last. Keep in mind that the track record of second marriages is even more abysmal than the 50% success rate of first marriages. Two-thirds of children whose parents divorce experience a second divorce if a parent remarries.
On the other hand, if your man is friendly and respectful with your kids but doesn’t work too hard at being nice, if he lets you manage the kids the way you always have and is willing to learn from you, and if he is comfortable with your children’s relationship with their biological parent, then you may have found a gem. I hope you like him a lot, because your children undoubtedly will!
© 2012, Patricia Nan Anderson. All rights reserved.