Dating after having children is more common than you realize. Whether a woman was never married, is divorced, or lost a spouse, more and more are faced with a situation they never intended—being a dating mom. As a licensed psychologist, I have a little advice on how to do it gracefully, keeping our children at the forefront.
Here are a few tips for dating when you have children:
1. Talk to your child.
If your children are five years or older, check with them to see how they feel about you dating. Younger than that, share with them in an age-appropriate manner, knowing your child. Some three- or four-year-olds can understand and some cannot.
2. Don’t overshare.
Your children do not need to know about every person you date until you meet someone you are serious about. Introducing different significant others to children becomes confusing and anxiety-provoking. You will probably not be prepared for the millions of questions, so don’t go there unless you’re serious about the person you’re seeing.
3. Be honest.
This is a big one. Do not—and I repeat—do not introduce him as a friend. In doing that, when you finally let on to your children that he is your boyfriend, you have just proven you lie to your children. Yes, you modeled the very behavior you do not want your children to do. Lead by example and be honest.
4. Do it slowly.
Don’t have your guy spend the night the first time your children meet him. Allow your children to hang out with him at an event. Go to the zoo, a museum, a park, or the like. This keeps the conversation lighthearted.
5. Ease them into it.
Once your children have met your new interest, slowly spend increasing periods of time together. If you have a timesharing plan and your children go to their other parent’s home on a regular basis, keep the majority of your dating time to when you do not have your children. During the introductory phase, do not have your children around your boyfriend every time they’re with you. Having someone new in mom’s life can be scary. They wonder: Who is this person? Is this person going to take my mommy from me? Will I like this person? Will he like me? Will he tell me what to do? And the list goes on. Be cognizant of your child still wanting you and only you as this is a big change in his or her world.
6. Keep the conversation open.
Check in with your child from an open, non-judgmental stance. Ask, “What do you think of Mom’s boyfriend? What can I do to help with adding someone new to our family? What would help you to get to know him?” Do not push your children to say they like him. Remember, just as you get to decide who you love, children do too.
7. Do not have your children call him “Dad.”
Never, ever. If your child decides on his or her own to call the person “Dad” or a variation of it when you are serious or married, then fine. But make it clear: this person is not to replace their father.
8. Be prepared for ups and downs.
It won’t be all roses. Your child will probably test this guy to see if he is going to be a jerk or have grit and grace. You be the parent and allow him to be a mentor, a special adult like an uncle or other family members. I see too many women who hand over the reins of discipline to their significant other. Not good. Your children will learn to resent him because he is not their parent and they know it.
9. Have fun.
Keep it lighthearted and be honest with your children when it gets serious. Include them on the engagement, wedding planning, and the like when the relationship heads that way.
10. Protect your child if it ends.
If the relationship does not work out, do not give your child all the details as to why. Explain that it did not work and your time with him is over. Offer the child a chance for closure by talking to your child about his or her feelings and actively listening.
Dating as a mother is not easy. There is a whole dynamic that we never thought of when we dreamed of meeting Mr. Dreamy. However, giving yourself and your child grace while using your grit to get through the bumpy road can lead to a wonderful relationship for you and your children long term.
For more article like this for strong women, start here:
When Will I Be Ready to Date After My Husband’s Death?
Ask Dr. Zoe – Dating a Recovering Addict
Things You Should Know When You Want to Date a Single Dad
Great Sex—What Is It?
You, Your Man, and His Baby Mama All Need Grit and Grace
5 Guys Your Mother Warned You About
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You’ll also want to listen to this episode of This Grit and Grace Life podcast Single? How to Thrive in the Online Dating World with Kristin Fry – 037