When you have children and you find yourself single again, dating can be very complicated. Not only do you have the challenge of finding someone worthy of dating, but you have more constraints on your time, potential childcare issues, and then the complex issue of what your children should know and who they should meet. The following are some general tips that I have acquired through my own experience and the experience of clients.
First and most importantly, children (especially those under 18) must always come first. While you are entitled to a love life, your children’s well being should always be your top priority and should never take a back seat to your loneliness or desire to find a partner. Having said this though, you have every right to date and your children should never be an obstacle or reason that holds you back when you are ready to meet someone.
Second, your love life is not your children’s business. This means that they don’t need to know everything about your dating life, and some questions should be off limits. While I don’t think it is generally advisable to lie to your children about anything, having boundaries around what they are allowed to ask or know is healthy. Young children will likely have completely different questions than teens. What you share should be dependent on the age of your children as well as your own relationship with them.
Third, balancing a dating life with children is tricky. If you share custody of your children and they are only with you a limited amount of time, during the time that they are with you, they should be the priority. If you are regularly out dating during the 50 percent or less of the time that your children are with you, this will likely cause problems in your relationship with your children as it may create a perception in their minds that they are less important. If you have your children fulltime, it is a different story and you will have to find a way to balance this.
Fourth, while your children are the priority. if you frequently cancel on your date, spend time on the phone with your children throughout the date, or have no contact at all even via text with someone you are dating on the days that you have your children with you, it is likely that you aren’t ready for a relationship because no healthy love relationship can be built with this foundation. If you want to develop a relationship with someone, you owe them the respect of giving them some of your time and focus too, and it is also healthy for your children to see this and learn that sometimes they don’t command 100 percent of your attention.
Fifth, when to introduce your children to someone you are dating is a tricky issue. My advice is that your children really only need to meet someone with whom you are in a serious relationship. There is no need for your children to meet someone new or that you are casually dating. I have found that as my children entered their teens, it isn’t as big a deal for them to casually meet someone I am dating because they are mature enough to understand what dating means. When they were younger they had a lot of discomfort with the idea of mommy dating, whereas as teens they frequently tell me that they want me to date and that I deserve to meet someone nice.
Last, but not least is the issue of intimacy, dating and children. This is the most complicated subject of all. My advice is that parents should tread carefully on this issue and always respect their children. Sharing a bed with someone while your children are in the home is significant and it is healthiest for your children if this is only done with a partner that you are serious about and with whom your children have already developed a relationship.
All of these tips are general guidelines. You know your children best and are best suited to make the healthiest choice for your family. Always remember that your children’s well being should come first, but that you also have a right to a love life whether your children support it or not.