It’s not easy to start dating, especially if you’re supposed to do it… again. If you’re a single parent who’s been through a divorce or separation, it could be a long time since you’ve last dated, and you may feel a bit rusty.
Keep reading to find out how dating as a single parent looks like, the most common challenges, and how to play the dating game successfully.
Single Parent Dating Rules
It isn’t easy to find yourself dating as a single parent. You don’t know how to act, what to say, or the right approach to the entire matter. So, here are some ground rules to make your life easier.
1. Don’t start till you’re ready
Dating is as messy as it’s thrilling. To make it less stressful, it’s key we don’t engage in it until we’re fully ready to embrace the experience – the good and the bad side of it.
When you’re a single parent and dating, things can get even more complex. Dealing with divorce and heartbreak and healing properly can take a lot of time and work on ourselves. When you add taking care of kids, it’s easy to be consumed by everyday life and forget about the inner mess you need to resolve.
For many a single dad and single mom, dating becomes a means to heal emotional trauma such as separation or divorce. However, this “fight fire with fire” approach is not the way to go, as it’ll only make you more hurt after you encounter rejection, setbacks, or ghosting online – and you will.
Dating requires emotional strength and resilience. To avoid more pain and shifts for both you and your children, you should pause dating until you feel strong and confident enough again. Then, once you find yourself in a good place, happy and fulfilled with other aspects of your life, you’re good to start playing the dating game.
2. Do away with the guilt
Dating as a single mom or dad means we’ll sometimes feel guilty about not spending all our free time with our children. In addition, society can often make us think that our personal lives shouldn’t be among our priorities when we become parents, especially if we’re single parents.
However, the truth is on the opposite side. A fulfilling personal life will make us more satisfied and thus more dedicated to quality time spent with kids.
Tuning out the feeling of guilt is one of the hardest challenges of dating as a single parent, especially when you’re out and having fun. Still, if you take a step back and look at it from a different perspective, your kids may benefit from your dating experience.
Feelings of anger and resentment we experience when forced to sacrifice too much of ourselves can seep through our daily communication with children, so it’s essential to acknowledge one’s own needs – for everyone’s sake. Successfully dating as a single dad or mom means your kid will get to see their parent in a happy, committed relationship. This gives children a chance to have a positive role model for the future. Even problems you encounter will provide them with precious insight into how dating works.
3. Know your worth
When you’re a single parent dating, rejection and breakups can be more hurtful than they used to be when you were initially dating – especially if it’s related to the fact you have kids. Most parents feel their offspring is an integral and incredibly important part of their own identity, so being rejected on the grounds of having kids can be an extremely painful experience.
Still, try not to let rejection get to you, and don’t take it personally – some people are simply not ready to date single parents. Having children is a big responsibility and requires a lot of sacrifices, which isn’t something everyone’s prepared to commit to. It has nothing to do with what kind of person you – or your kid(s) – are.
Being a single parent and dating isn’t easy. That’s why the very fact you’re doing it shows just how brave, capable, and admirable you are. The fact that you have kids doesn’t mean you have to put up with partners who don’t make you truly happy, believing it’s what you deserve.
Having children makes you in no way less worthy of true love. So: Know your worth, don’t settle for less, and don’t be afraid to keep dating until you find the one. After all, another bad relationship is just not what you’re here for.
4. Acknowledge your kids’ feelings
Even if you’ve figured out how to start dating as a single mom or dad and you feel you’re ready for it, your children may still need time to come to terms with their feelings. So you must be ready to talk about it or take the initiative if you see they’re struggling.
Regardless of their age, your kids can start feeling afraid once you start dating again. Although sometimes it comes out as fits of rage or defiance, it’s mostly just fear that you’ll abandon them or that things between you will change. Of course, you know that’s not true, but don’t disregard their feelings and have the patience to talk to them about it.
One of the main challenges of dating as a single parent is navigating through the complex and sensitive world of your kids’ feelings. Of course, as a loving and responsible parent, you don’t want to hurt them in any way, but sometimes it’s going to happen no matter what you do.
The best thing you can do is give them time, but that doesn’t mean you should stop dating. Just give them time to adjust: Acknowledge their fears, keep communicating, and stay supportive. Fighting can be bad and give your child reason to believe you no longer care about them.
What’s the right dating timeline for single parents?
All of us have a dating timeline that matches our beliefs and our comfort zone – dating timelines give us a sense of certainty which is essential, especially if you’ve just started dating again. This remains true regardless of the situation we find ourselves in.
What we’re trying to say is there’s no single right dating timeline for single parent dating. There’s no rule to what’s “right” or “normal.” The only criterion is that it feels normal to you.
The first date and the first kiss make people nervous since some feel that the kiss should happen during the date. However, it’s up to you. If you feel like it and find matching energy in your partner, no rule states otherwise.
When it comes to single parent dating, it’s common for single parents to start dating their friends or colleagues. In these cases, first kisses, meeting friends, and getting to know each other had already happened, completely shifting the dating timeline.
The best dating timeline for single parents is the one you tailor according to your feelings and needs. If you find yourself ready to date and find a partner you like, the best thing to do is follow your feelings. No one knows what’s better for you and your family than yourself.
Challenges of Dating as a Single Parent
Even if you’re sticking to all of the rules we’ve just covered, dating will bring certain challenges people without children don’t even have to think about. Here are some tips on how to anticipate these obstacles.
1. Don’t treat it as “just a relationship” – you’re building a family
When you’re dating, building a certain everyday dynamic that suits both of you is an important part of the process. However, when it comes to single parent dating, this dynamic needs to complement your family dynamic.
If you want your relationship to work in the long run, you need to consider how your partner would fit into the dynamic you have with your kid(s). For example, if your potential partner is an adrenaline junkie who likes to improvise, they’ll probably have difficulty adjusting to the family schedule.
It’s all about compromise when it comes to being a single parent and dating: Talk to your partner and try to figure out the lifestyle changes you and your family could get used to. However, stay realistic and don’t lose perspective just because you’re falling in love.
2. Have firm rules about introducing your partner to your kids
Setting some ground rules is among the most important steps when you’re learning how to start dating as a single mom or dad. When and how your partner meets your children is a rule you must have and stick to.
Make sure you discuss this with your children first. Ask them about their feelings and consider that. It isn’t good to introduce your new partner after two or three months of dating if your child is still struggling to accept that you’re dating or they’re dealing with divorce trauma.
Dating as a young single mom can be particularly stressful because your kid(s) are still growing up and forming their personalities. The person who you’d potentially bring home could become a role model for your child, so this is a path you need to tread carefully. Besides, young children need stability in their lives, which makes introducing them to someone who’s not going to stick around a very bad idea.
On the other hand, if you’re a single mom over 40 and dating, you may not encounter this problem. If your kids are grown-ups who no longer depend on you, it’s more probable they’ll be more open to meeting your partners.
Of course, this is all highly individual, and no one knows your child better than you do. Some children take less time to process life changes and are natural extroverts, so they could be completely ok with meeting your dates early on.
However, whatever the case may be, stick to your decision. Even if your children are open to the idea of you dating, it’s wiser not to rush formal introduction as it can put a significant strain on a new, developing relationship.
3. Listen to and address your child’s fears
As mentioned before, when you’re a single parent and dating, you need to be mindful of how it affects your kid(s). Divorce affects children much more, and they may not feel ready to see you dating someone else.
These are complex feelings your child may not cope with on their own, and you need to take the lead and keep communicating openly. Try to see their perspective and refrain from disregarding their feelings even when they seem silly to you.
If you’re a single dad or a single mom dating, your child may start feeling afraid of being left behind. Your dating life could be seen as a desire to have a new life or more children, while they remain a part of the old life they feel you want to forget.
Children of people who’ve divorced recently are quite reluctant to accept their parents dating other people. They often have hopes of their family getting back together or have simply faced too much change in their life and just need a break.
Being on the same page as your children is one of the most significant challenges of dating as a single parent. To do this the right way, it’s crucial you talk to them, listen carefully, and try not to take it personally and cause an argument. Instead, address their fears in a way they can understand and process emotionally.
Considering everything we’ve discussed, dating as a single parent may seem quite complex and feel overwhelming. However, it can absolutely be worth it. Dating after a heartbreak is a brave thing to do, and if you’ve come such a long way and you feel you’re ready to give someone else a chance – go for it!