When your relationship ends, it can be difficult to put yourself back out there and risk getting hurt all over again. When you have kids, that desire to avoid pain is multiplied because you don’t want your kids to be hurt again either. Then there are the the some issues specific to single parents, such as finding time, babysitters, and support from family and friends in your wish to find someone new to spend your life with. Here are a few tips to help you not only get back out there in the dating world, but to also avoid getting hurt.
Consider online dating
Online dating used to be frowned upon. It was considered to be something only those who couldn’t get a date did, or that only liars were on dating sites.
Things are much different today. Aside from the wealth of free, quality dating sites, most people don’t consider online dating to be a bad thing anymore. And there are many advantages to online dating.
One advantage is that most dating sites have a section in the profile for whether or not you have children. This section can be very useful to single parents, as often one of the options is “I don’t have/want kids.” This section proves useful in helping the single parent weed out those who don’t want kids as well as allowing the single parent to be upfront about their family status. This helps to avoid wasting time with someone you would be clearly incompatible with, if children are a dealbreaker for them.
Another advantage is that most of the sites have a messaging option. You can send e-mail through the site itself as well as instant message someone you’re interested in. This allows you to communicate with prospective dates without giving out any of your personal information until you’ve gotten to know a bit about them and feel more comfortable with that. This also allows for communication on your schedule. You don’t need a babysitter to instant message someone. You can e-mail them at 3am if that’s what suits your schedule, and they can respond at their convenience. You can’t do this forever, but it does take some of the initial pressure off, and gives you the chance to get to know them a bit before you pay a sitter and take time from your kids to meet them.
Don’t jump into something serious
It can be tempting to get into another exclusive relationship as soon as possible after the end of your relationship. Don’t give in to that temptation. The urge is there because you want the familiarity and the stability that came with being in a relationship. But jumping into a serious relationship so quickly can be disastrous, both to you and your kids.
Take some time to heal from the end of the first relationship before getting into the next. Evaluate the broken relationship to figure out what went wrong and how to avoid it the next time. Use it as a learning experience to refine your standards and what you’re looking for before trying to build a new relationship. You stand a better chance of a future relationship working out if you know what not to do and what not to accept in the future.
Plan dates in advance
Babysitters can sometimes be available at the last minute, but often they are not. Don’t wait until the last minute to try schedule a date. Make sure anyone you are seeing is very aware that you have kids and that you need advance notice for a date. As a general rule, try to schedule dates at least three to four days ahead of time, so that you have plenty of time to find a sitter. Alternatively, have unconventional dates. Perhaps you both have the same day off while the kids are at school. Meet for a quick lunch in the middle of the day. These not only eliminate the need for the sitter, but they also can take some of the pressure away.
If you haven’t often left your kids at home so you could go out, begin preparing them for your new social life. Don’t give them details of what you are doing, but start talking to them about how you will be going out, what nights you will go, who they will stay with, when you will be home, and how they can reach you if they should need you while you are out.
If you don’t have a trusted babysitter already, consider asking a family member or close friend that the kids trust and like stay with them until you can find a babysitter you trust and that they kids like. You don’t want to get a call mid-date from a frantic or frustrated babysitter who can’t calm your kids down.
Be cautious when it comes to involving the kids
It can be very tempting, especially if your child’s other parent is not involved in their life, to want to find a new mom/dad for them. Often, single parents don’t even realize that that is what they are trying to do. They think they are looking for someone just for themselves, but they are subconsciously evaluating potential partners for their parenting ability.
It is important to find someone who can accept and enjoy your kids, and with whom you share similar parenting philosophies. But it’s also just as important, if not more so, to ensure that your kids aren’t confused. After divorce, or any situation in which one parent is no longer in their lives the same way, kids are often confused, scared and sad. Bringing new people into their lives only to have those people quickly go away does nothing to help alleviate those feelings.
As a general rule, it’s best to avoid introducing your kids to your new significant other for at least six months. The theory is that if you’ve lasted six months, the relationship is important to you and significant enough to include the kids.
There are opposing views on how to introduce your kids to your significant other. Some think you should tell the kids s/he is just a friend; others think you should call them your boyfriend or girlfriend. While the friend option does lower pressure and expectation, it also can confuse the kids if they happen to see you kiss or hold hands. They don’t hold hands with or kiss their friends, and you don’t do that with your other friends, so they aren’t sure what to make of that. The honesty that comes with calling your significant other your boyfriend or girlfriend not only makes things clearer to the kids, it also shows the kids that you can be trusted to tell them the truth always. It also gives your boyfriend or girlfriend a new sense of security; they will feel better knowing that you care enough about them to be honest with the kids.
Kids can be great judges of character, too. Tell your children, before they meet your significant other, that after meeting him/her, you would like their opinion. You want to know what they think of this new person in your and their lives. Often, kids will sense something, see something, or somehow just know something that you haven’t seen. If your kids don’t like your significant other, find out why and give some serious consideration to their reasons. There may be some merit to them. Make sure your kids know that you want to hear their true opinion, and really listen when they give that to you, even if it isn’t something you want to hear.
Keep the first meeting very low key and casual. Try to find something that your kids enjoy doing, that allows them to interact with your significant other without pressure. Mini golf, bowling, skating, bike riding, or petting zoos could all be good options. They give everyone something to do, while not requiring nothing but conversation. Situations such as a dinner can make things awkward, since there’s not much to do but talk, other than eat. Movies are all right, but they don’t really allow for any interaction, which is the point of the meeting.
Trust your instincts
While it’s not common, there are those out there that prey on single parents. The reasons for it vary: pedophiles looking for an overworked single parent who might not notice; cheaters looking for someone who has limited time and attention and so won’t notice that the cheater has limited time and attention; or even just looking for someone they think has a lack of confidence that they can take advantage of. Sometimes their predatory actions appear generous on the surface: the wealthy man who offers to set the single mother up in a nice house with a nanny, or the sweet woman who offers to babysit the single father’s kids while he works late. The single parent feels guilty for feeling as though something is off, and tries to brush off the feeling.
Ignore the guilt; pay attention to the feeling. If you feel something is off about the relationship or the person, look at why you feel that way. Figure out what it is that is making you feel that way and then determine if it’s something to worry about or if it’s just dating nerves.
Have fun with it
If you’re ready to date again, have fun with it. Take your time getting to know someone. Enjoy yourself on your dates. Try new things and get some new experiences. Remember that even if a date doesn’t work out as anything more, you can still get new friends out of it. New friends are never a bad thing.