When you’re a single parent venturing back out into the dating world, things are noticeably different and more complicated. After all, it’s no longer just you dating. This go around, the whole family has an opinion. And it’s complicated.
To set yourself up for a positive experience with minimal family drama the Kelleher International matchmakers share a few foundational guidelines for single parent dating.
The biggest piece of advice for parents is unanimous amongst our team of matchmakers. Do not involve your children in your dating life until things get serious. To mitigate the emotional risk and drama, never introduce someone you are casually dating to your kids.
Several of our matchmakers are single, full-time parents who admit the dating world is nothing short of tricky and agree there’s no rush to introduce your children to someone new. A considerable amount of time should pass, and a serious, committed relationship should be taking shape before talks of introductions begin.
During this period of privately dating, you should mindfully analyze how your new love interest will interact and engage with your children. Understand this time around you aren’t just forming a relationship with one other person, you’re creating a family. Actively consider both romantic and family chemistry. Visualize how this new person will integrate into your family flow and instigate open dialogue about parenting styles, commitment to family, fears, and expectations. Your gut will tell you when (or if) it’s time for your worlds to collide.
When you’re ready to introduce your new love to your children, KI Executive Matchmaker Sonya Robinson suggests, “Choose a neutral location with a fun and light atmosphere. If both you and your significant other have kids make it a play date or a picnic at the park.”
Kids are curious and perceptive creatures, and frequently the questions begin before you’re ready for that face-to-face introduction. When fielding questions about your blossoming romantic partnership, our matchmakers agree that honesty is the best policy. “Have a real conversation with them about what’s happening, and be sensitive to how they may react,” Sonya urges.
You’ll likely deal with feelings of confusion, jealousy, and loyalty. Play the "what if" game to assess current attitudes and foster an openness to what might happen. Savvy single parents don’t allow their children’s emotions to dictate their dating life, but they do listen and give it serious consideration. It's a delicate dance.
Debra Mansfield, KI National Matchmaker, reminds us, “All kids are protective of their parental relationship whether they know how to express it or not. Be patient with those bouts of jealousy and assure your children they are your most important priority no matter what happens.”
Kelleher International Matchmaker Nahla Grafer adds, “It’s a real balancing act between nurturing kids and nurturing a new love interest. Single parents don’t have the luxury of spontaneity in dating, so it’s helpful to strategically plan dates and romantic trips around your shared custody calendar. Avoid land mines of hurt feelings on both sides and foster your parental and romantic relationships by staying organized with your quality time.”
As a parent looking to re-couple whatever you do, don’t compromise your relationship with your child for romantic love. It’s challenging incorporating a new love into your kids' lives, but most parents would agree, particularly with young children, the priority should be the emotional health and happiness of the children involved. KI Matchmaker Doreen Justice warns, “Not demonstrating that your kids are your priority is a big turn off, even for men. Yes, there needs to be a balance, but often said balance naturally develops after the kids are emotionally stable and adjusted to their parent's divorce. Be patient and don’t lose sight of your priorities. If your love interest doesn’t understand, he or she is not the person to complete your new family.”
On the flip side, what happens when the new relationship has run its course, and you’re ready to end things? Kelleher Member Liaison, Jennifer Wolpert, suggests, “If your children adore the person you are dating and things go south, you have to stand firm. It will make the decision difficult, but you cannot let their feelings on the relationship stand in the way of you ending things and moving on to finding your right romantic partner.”
The dynamics of dating with children are simultaneously complex and delicate, and there’s no singular path to success. Talking things out, being open, and asking for help when needed is admirable. Do you have suggestions of your own or maybe you’ve got more questions than answers? Whatever it may be, we’d love to hear from you. Leave your comments below or email us.