Dating with Children
more than just a parent. Some of you might be thinking,
"I'd love to start dating, but who would want to date
someone with four children, a dog, and two parakeets?"
The answer is, plenty of people. Don't automatically
assume just because you have children, you're less
desirable. There are plenty of people who like children
and who want to date someone with children. While other
single parents are probably the most likely to be
interested in dating someone with children, there are
lots of people who have no children of their own who
would be delighted with a ready-made family.
Even if you fit the description of single mom or
dad, it's important for you to realize that you are more
than just a parent. You are a vibrant, energetically
alive adult who deserves to have a social life. To help
make the transition from mommy or daddy to date, lover,
boyfriend or girlfriend, stop thinking of yourself as
just a parent, and start thinking of yourself as an
attractive, devastatingly sexy single. To help boost
your confidence, take more care with your appearance
than you might be in the habit of doing. When you're out
doing errands on the weekend, wear something that
flatters you, even if it's just a pair of great-looking
jeans, instead of wearing cutoffs or sweats.
Think about having a makeover. A different haircut
and an updated wardrobe are both good ways to feel more
attractive and desirable. If you're still wearing a
wedding ring, take it off now. In fact, shed any rings
that would convey the message that you're unavailable.
You Can Do It : Dating With Children Offers Challenges
Making the mental transition from parent to person
is one thing, but there are also practical matters to be
considered. Dating when you have children offers some
challenges that aren't present when you are footloose
and fancy free, but there is no reason why you can't be
a parent and still have a
rich and fulfilling social life. While you will need a
bit more organization and some creativity to be a dating
parent than if you were single without children, both
you and your children will benefit from the extra
I know how important it is to take care of your
children; to meet their physical and emotional needs.
But if you don't take care of yourself, you won't be
able to take care of your children. Taking care of
yourself first is what I call the "oxygen mask"
principle. If you've ever taken a commercial airliner,
you've heard the flight attendant tell passengers that
if there should be a change in pressure and the oxygen
mask drops down, parents should always breathe into it
first before assisting their children. The theory is
that if you don't get any oxygen, you'll be unable to
help your child.
The same principle applies to your life in
general. You have to take care of your own emotional,
mental, and physical needs before you can help your
children. If you're sacrificing your social life for
your children, you're not doing them a favor. The best
gift you can give your children is the example of a
well-balanced, happy adult life. Everything you do and
say and feel is a lesson for your children. When you
take care of yourself emotionally by enjoying your life
and the people who populate it, you're teaching your
children how to become healthy, happy adults as well.
Not Guilty As Charged For Dating
As a parent, there are many times in life when you
are faced with a conflict that may cause you to feel
guilty. On the one hand, you have a desire to do
something for yourself that would be pleasurable. On the
other hand, you might feel guilty for:
Suppose, for example, that
you've been invited out on a date, but you aren't sure
whether to accept or not. You feel guilty about leaving
your small children with a baby-sitter or leaving your
older children alone for a few hours. My advice is feel
the guilt and do it anyway! If you don't, sooner or
later you're going to resent the fact you never date or
do anything socially. And who do you think your
resentment's going to affect most? That's right. Your
children. Believe me, your guilty feelings are much
easier on your children than your feelings of anger and
No Permission Needed To Date If You Have Children
I'm only going to say this once, so I want you to
pay careful attention. You do not need approval from
your children in order to date! Your decision to date
must come from your own readiness to have a social life.
When you feel ready and secure about your decision, your
children will come to accept and eventually respect it.
If you're undecided and look to them for permission to
date, you may or may not get it, but one thing's for
sure. You'll have given them control. You don't have to
ask them if it's okay or if they'd mind if you go out.
Just go, and have fun!
To avoid conflict, some parents will keep their
dating a secret from their children. But when you hide
the fact that you're dating, you're still giving your
children control. By dating secretly, you're telling
your children that you're ashamed of what you're doing.
Having a life outside of being a parent is nothing to be
ashamed of. Your children need to know that while they
are a very important part of your life, your entire
world doesn't revolve around them.
When you can be open with your children about your
social life, it reduces their anxiety and builds trust.
Explain to them that just as they need to have friends
their own age, you need to have adult friendships.
They'll soon catch on that they'll benefit from your
happiness. If your children are getting the kind of love
and attention they need from you, they won't be
threatened by your dating.
A Package Deal: Be Honest With Your Date
Not only must you be honest with your children,
you must also be honest with the people you are dating.
Whatever you do, don't ever hide the fact you have
children. Be clear that you are a package deal and proud
of it! Hiding the fact you have children or postponing
telling your date the truth is not the way to begin a
Beginning To Date Again With Children
Beginning to date again can be an exciting new
chapter in your life, but finding time to meet a new
mate, when you can barely find time to do the dishes,
can be a challenge. Don't let lack of time keep you from
the happiness you deserve. While there are many ways to
meet a potential mate, the personal ads and the Internet
are tailor-made for you. You can put together your
personal ad and have a wonderful time talking to your
potential new dates while your children are asleep or
busy with their own activities. In addition, if you have
a computer, you can visit the Web sites on the Internet
that are devoted to dating without leaving the comfort
of your home.
When you're placing your ad, the fact you're a
single parent must be included. Remember, the beauty of
a personal ad is that it helps you target exactly the
kind of person you want to meet. If you have children,
you want to meet someone who's comfortable dating
someone with children, so don't hesitate to advertise
that you are a single parent.
Either in your ad or on your voice mail message,
mention the ages of your children. While your children's
ages won't matter to many people, some people have
definite preferences. You want your future dates to be
completely comfortable around your children, so it's
only fair to tell them up front how old your children
In addition to using a personal ad or the Internet
to meet people, there are many groups dedicated
specifically to single parents. While meeting other
single parents is more likely if you go places with your
children, don't limit yourself to these activities. Get
out and do something just for yourself. Take a class
where you'll meet members of the opposite sex or look
for a special interest group for singles such as a
hiking, biking, or theater group. Take up folk dancing
or country-western dancing (it's good exercise and you
don't need a partner).
Children Can Be The Bridge With Your Date
Meeting people when you're with your children is
often easier than when you're alone. Children make you
more approachable. Someone who might not know how to
start a conversation with you, might feel very
comfortable talking to your child.
Being a single parent gives you some great
opportunities to meet other single parents. Your own
children are your best resource for places to go where
you might meet other single parents. If your children
like going somewhere, so will other children. Along with
other children, come other parents -- many of whom are
single. The following are just a few of the places you
can expect to meet other single parents: zoos,
carnivals, children's museums, playgrounds, libraries,
and video arcades, and that's just the tip of the
iceberg. I suggest you sit down with a friend who's a
single parent and brainstorm all the places you can
think of where parents take children.
Another way for you to meet new people is to let
your children do the matchmaking. I've known lots of men
and women whose children have introduced them to the
person who ended up being their mate. If your children
approve of the person enough to introduce him or her to
you, it's definitely worth a try.
Introducing Your Dates to Your Children
Although I recommend dating a lot of people in
order to find the perfect match for you, I don't
recommend introducing all your dates to your children.
Meeting every, or even most, of those you go out with
can only upset and confuse them. Children are always
most comfortable when their world is predictable, and a
steady diet of new dates will keep them constantly
off-balance. Until someone comes into your life who you
feel is special and has become important to you, be very
selective about whom you introduce your children to.
How much time should pass before you introduce the
new person in your life to your children? Unfortunately,
there is no right answer to that question. The
time-frame will be different for everyone, depending on
the individual and the circumstances. You may know
within the first four or five dates that this person is
special and is in your life to stay. Or, it may take
months before you feel confident that you are committed
to each other.
Keep in mind that once they have met, your
children will undoubtedly begin to bond with your new
partner, maybe even develop a strong affection for them.
Then, if the relationship comes to an untimely end, your
children will suffer a sense of loss. By waiting to
introduce your children to your partner until you feel
quite sure of the relationship, you can avoid exposing
your children to possible hurt. Until that time comes,
there are lots of ways to spend time together without
your children being involved.
Whatever you do, don't try to side-step the
inconvenience of meeting outside of your home by having
your date come over after the children are in bed. There
are too many opportunities for disaster. The last thing
you want is for your child to wake up and find you
entertaining a stranger in the living room. It's not
that you're doing something wrong -- you're not! It's
just best to avoid subjecting your child to some pretty
strong feelings of shock and betrayal.
When The Time Is Right
While it's best to wait to introduce your children
to someone until you're sure they are special, it's all
right to mention them by name, saying "I'm going out to
dinner tonight with so and so," when you start seeing
them on a regular basis. When it's time to introduce
them, tell your children that this is someone you like
very much and introduce the person as a good friend,
rather than as your boyfriend or girlfriend.
Be prepared for your children to be unfriendly to
your new friend at first. Although you see this person
as having only wonderful qualities, your children may
see him or her as a threat. It's easy to understand how
they might object to sharing you with another person.
While it's important for your children to show
respect and courtesy toward you and your date, it's even
more important for you to listen to and understand their
feelings. Keep the lines of communication with your
children open, so they can ask questions or talk about
their fears. Reassure your children that your love for
them will never change, no matter who you date. Also
reassure them that no one will ever replace their other
parent and never, ever tell your children you are
looking for a new mother or father for them. If you are
divorced, they already have a mother or a father and
they may wonder what will become of them. If you are
widowed, your children's memory of their mother or
father should always be respected and cherished for the
special relationship it is.
First Encounters With Your Date
The first time your children and your new partner
spend time together, it should be in neutral territory,
not in your (the children's) home. Your first impulse
may be to invite your new love for a nice, cozy family
dinner at your house, but this is not a good idea. It is
also your children's house, and they may feel their
territory is being invaded.
For their first time together, select an activity
that your children enjoy. Roller skating, going to the
beach or a playground, or visiting the zoo are a few
ideas that might work for you. Whatever you decide to
do, avoid strictly adult activities such as going to the
symphony or dining at a formal restaurant. To improve
the chances your children will react well to your new
love, be sure they're as comfortable as possible in
their surroundings. If their first experience together
is a negative experience, it'll be harder to turn it
into a positive experience the next time.
Overcoming Obstacles To Dating With Children
It doesn't matter if your children are toddlers,
teenagers, or adults, having a social life forces you to
consider issues you'd never think about if you were
dating without children. Whether it's baby-sitters,
providing adequate supervision for older children, or
upsetting your adult children's sensibilities, the
challenges are there and must be dealt with.
If you have young children, your social life
depends a lot on the availability of child care. Without
someone to baby-sit, you can't go anywhere. Take an
inventory of the people in your life who can provide
this valuable service. Grandparents, teachers, older
students who can be trusted, friends, neighbors, and
baby-sitting services are all possible resources. Many
people find that their best opportunity for dating comes
during the times when the children are with their other
parent. No matter whom you choose, don't put all your
eggs in one basket.
It's very important to have several baby-sitters
you trust and know your children feel comfortable with.
That way, if you accept a date with someone, and your
baby-sitter cancels, you'll have another one in the
wings who can take over at a moment's notice.
Another factor to consider when you're dating with
young children, is how long you can stay out. Before you
had children, you could stay out as late as you wanted
to. You could party all night and sleep all day, and the
only person who would suffer would be you. Not any more.
First of all, your baby-sitter probably has to be home
by a certain time, but more importantly, you need your
energy to be a good parent the next day.
While you may not be able to burn the midnight oil
as you could in the past, it's still possible to have a
wonderful time with your date and be fresh for your
children the next day. It just takes a little planning
and creativity. Whenever possible, do something together
during the daytime or in the early evening. Meet right
after work for an early dinner or movie. If you go to
the theater, skip the after-theater supper or drinks. If
you go dancing, go early and leave after the second set.
While it may not be fashionable to arrive at the club
right when the music starts, there are advantages. The
floor is less crowded, it's easier to find a table, and
the service is better. Even though you can't stay out
late as you did before you had children, you can still
have a fun and exciting date.
Dating when you have teenage children is much
different than dating with young children. While they
may not need a baby-sitter, they still need supervision,
even if it's yours, applied in advance. Before you go
out on a date, you and your teenager need to discuss his
or her plans for the time you'll be gone. Will your teen
be home, or at a friend's? Will the friend's parents be
home? Will your teenager be going out on a date of his
or her own? If your teen is going out, where will he or
she be and when will he or she be home?
If you don't have one already, carrying a pager
provides a tremendous feeling of comfort when you have
children of any age. Knowing you can be reached no
matter where you are gives you the freedom to enjoy
whatever it is you're doing without worry or stress. If
your children know they will be late coming home or if
they should need you for any reason, they will be able
to contact you easily.
Although dating when you have adult children is
less complicated than dating with teenagers or young
children, there still may be some issues you'll have to
deal with. If you have lost a spouse, your adult
children may have difficulty adjusting to the idea of
you dating or becoming involved in a relationship.
Although they may not be as outspoken as a young child
might be, adult children can be just as hurt or
resentful about a new step-parent as a five-year-old.
No matter how old they are, your children will
have feelings about you dating, but you can't let them
control your life. Let me remind you that you are
responsible for your own happiness. You must not allow
anyone, not even your children, to prevent you from
having the happiness you deserve.
While dating with children presents some
challenges, learning to balance your responsibilities
with fun is well worth the effort. The exercises below
will help you develop a plan that will allow you to be a
parent who dates, but one who does so wisely.
1. Before you can take care of your children's
needs, you have to take care of yourself. In your
journal, make a list of all the things you can do to
take care of your physical and emotional needs. Your
list could include such things as: taking a bubble bath,
playing a game of golf, or spending an afternoon with a
2. Sometimes parents let guilt keep them from
taking care of themselves. In your journal, list three
things you've always wanted to do, but haven't because
you would feel guilty. Then describe how you'd feel if
you went ahead and did what you wanted to do and how
your children would benefit.
3. The Internet and the personal ads are
convenient ways to meet people when your life is very
busy. Put together a personal ad and voice mail message
that portray you as a sexy single, as well as a single
4. The best places to meet single parents are
places you'd take your children. In your journal, list
as many of these places as you can think of.
5. Until you feel sure that the person you are
dating is someone special, it's not a good idea to
introduce them to your children. In your journal, list
all the ways you can think
of to meet your date without having them come to your
home or having your children meet them.
6. When you do decide your children and your new
love interest should meet, it needs to be on neutral
ground and somewhere your children will feel
comfortable. In your journal, make a list of appropriate
places to take your children on their first encounter
with your new partner.
Remember, for your children to be happy, you have
to be happy. Finding your perfect mate is a goal you can
be proud of -- one that will benefit both you and your
children. So pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and
start all over again.
article was excerpted from Single No More, by
Ellen Kreidman, Ph.D. ©1999.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Renaissance
More info. or to order this book.