Dating with kids is a totally different ballgame altogether, as many single parents have found out. While there are no set rules or lines drawn in stone, here are a few guidelines that can help you and your kids make the transition as smoothly as possible.
Talk to your kids
No matter how old your kids are, the entry of a new adult in your life, or even the possibility, is going to be somewhat unsettling for them. That is why experts say that the first thing you should do is talk to them honestly and in an age-appropriate way about what you are doing and why are you doing it. If you avoid the subject altogether, it will only cause more doubts and fears in the young minds.
As a rule of thumb, never try to position the new person as a substitute or replacement for the other parent. Acknowledge your kids’ concerns and reassure them that they will always be the most important priority in your life. For instance, many kids may hold on to the childish fantasy of their parents uniting again and your dating shuts the door on those thoughts. Be prepared to deal with any questions they might have in a calm manner without getting angry or defensive and let them know they can always talk to you openly about anything.
Also, remember that every kid is different. While some may quickly take to the presence of a new adult in their lives, others may need more time to adjust.
Don’t hide the facts
Be open with your date about your reality. You are not looking for another parent for your child, but you need to know if both of you share the same values and morals at heart. Let them know that you come as a package deal and that your children will always be a top priority in your life. Then give him or her a chance to decide if they want to handle all the perks and hitches that come with such a relationship. Dating a person with kids may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. There are plenty of other people out there who would love to be with someone with kids.
Wait until the time is right
Experts advise against introducing your kids to a new partner until you’ve been seeing that person for at least six weeks and you think that there is a strong possibility that it can turn out to be a long-term relationship. Traipsing a long list of “maybes” in front of them is only going to affect their sense of stability and trust and cause them more heartache, especially if they get too attached to the person and the relationship doesn’t work out.
If and when you do decide it is time for your kids to meet “the One”, choose a fun and neutral location like the park for the first meeting so as to avoid pressure on both parties.
As much as you would like your partner to spend the night with you, it’s better you avoid it when your children are at home, especially if it early in the relationship. Also, you can always plan sleepovers when your kids are with the other parent.
Finally, don’t feel guilty. Remember that you deserve to be happy as much as anyone else. Life doesn’t have to stop with divorce. There is nothing wrong about wanting to be with someone special. If dating would make you happier, it is only going to help you be a better parent to your kids.