Dating when you are a parent is entirely different from dating when you don’t have children. As a single or divorced parent, the added responsibility of taking your children’s feelings into account can make dating stressful and nerve-wracking.
Don’t forget, you’re not alone if you struggle to integrate your new partner into the family unit. At the turn of 2012, the number of single-parent families in the UK reached two million.
Choose your moment carefully
Don’t rush in and introduce your children to every new partner. If your children meet many different partners in short succession it could make the family unit feel unstable.
Start off by mentioning a serious partner to them as a ‘friend’, and this will alleviate the expectation of a new father/mother figure. It will also help your partner feel less stressed – if they are serious about the relationship then meeting your children could be incredibly intimidating.
Introduce the topic of a partner when your child is feeling relaxed and happy. If they are going through stress or emotional difficulties in other parts of their life, whether it’s at school, with friends or because of the breakup of your previous relationship, they may feel overwhelmed by the news and react badly.
Don’t expect too much
Meeting your new partner is uncharted ground for your children. Don’t expect everything to fall into place straightaway.
Children of different ages may react differently. Babies are unlikely to remember details of a meeting, but even children in their late teens may need more emotional support than you might expect. Just because they are almost adults, it doesn’t mean they won’t be defensive of you or jealous of your new partner.
A few shorter meetings are better than one long one. That way, everyone can get to know each other gradually.
Help your partner understand
By describing your children’s likes and dislikes before they meet, your partner will be able to tailor their conversation to avoid any sensitive topics.
If a child enjoys sharing a particular activity, such as a sport or reading a favourite book, with their other parent, it may be best to avoid doing this with the new partner. It could create the feeling that the new partner is trying to ‘replace’ a beloved parent, especially if the child has taken a breakup or divorce badly.
Be up front with a partner
Your children are a major part of your life. When you meet a new partner you should mention your children as soon as you can.
If, as a busy parent, you find going online the most convenient way, date sites such as eHarmony will allow you to make a profile for yourself. Think about mentioning your children in your description of yourself. After all, meeting those who share your values is really important.
Whether you want to meet free spirits in London or meet compatible singles in Leeds with eHarmony you can filter your matches to geographical regions. This is very important if you are a parent. You want to avoid the upheaval of moving to another part of the country if the relationship becomes long term.
Know the limits
Although your emotional well-being affects your parenting, the children should be your priority.
If the partnership causes excessive upset to your children, be prepared to scale down your relationship (for example, seeing one another outside the home) until your children are able to adjust.