How to Handle Dating When You Have Children

Dating again after a divorce or a break-up can be a wonderful and exciting experience, but it can also make you feel anxious. This is especially true when you have a child or children to consider. You may wonder: How do I tell my children I'm dating again? How do I introduce them to someone new? What do I tell someone new about my family situation? All of these questions can make dating seem like a big hassle, and you may feel it's easier not to date at all. While getting back into the dating scene may require some work, it also has benefits. Taking time for yourself and enjoying the company of other adults is important for your overall happiness and well-being. This article contains suggestions about how to begin dating again when you have children at home.

Preparing your children

When you start dating again, you not only have your own emotions to deal with, but you also have to think about what impact dating will have on your children. Your children's feelings and emotions may range from anger and shock to worry and fear. Consider the following suggestions before you begin dating seriously again:

  • Communicate the importance of dating and what it means to you. Sit down with your children and explain your need for companionship and why it matters. If they know it's something that is important to you, they may warm up to the idea.
  • Listen to your children, allow them to share their concerns and reassure them that nothing will change about your relationship or how much you love them.
  • Discuss any "ideas" they may have about your love life. Your children may be harboring hope that you and their father or mother will get back together. If this is not going to happen, you should be clear with them, so that they can begin to let go of any fantasies they may have. At the same time, it's important to reassure them that you both love them deeply and unconditionally even if you are no longer together.

Introducing your children to someone new

Once you decide that you have found someone really special, it may be time to introduce him or her to your children. Introducing children to someone new can be awkward. Everyone will probably be a little nervous. It's important to be sure you are clear on why you're bringing that special someone into your family and then decide on the best timing. The smoother you can make the introduction, the better off you'll be.

  • Wait until you know this person is worthy to meet your family. Some experts suggest waiting six months - others suggest even longer. Regardless of how long you decide to wait, make sure this person is someone special before you introduce him or her to your family.
  • Know yourself and your intentions. If you know that the person you are dating is nothing serious, you may want to avoid getting him or her too involved with your children. Think about the qualities you like about the person beforehand. If you are interested in their looks and fun attitude, he or she may be a great person to date but not the right person to introduce to your family; if you find yourself admiring his or her honesty, kindness and sense or humor, this may be someone you want to bring your children around.
  • Hold a family meeting beforehand. Tell your children about the new person you want them to meet. This ensures that they are not blindsided when your date comes to the door or stays for dinner one night. In addition, communicate your expectations for their behavior beforehand. If you expect them to do more than say hello, you should talk about it first.
  • Consider a friendly, comfortable setting for their first meeting. A formal dinner may not be the easiest or most comfortable way for everyone to meet. Perhaps a sporting event or an outing to the park may be a more relaxed way for everyone to get to know each other.
  • Follow up with your children afterwards. Check in after you have introduced your new love interest to your children to gauge how they are feeling. They may need to be reminded that no one is replacing their mom or dad and that you are still there for them.
  • Be present. If you spend a lot of time out with someone new and miss a lot of opportunities to spend time with your children, they may become resentful and angry. Make sure your relationship with your children stays strong while you are dating. It's important to continue to spend time with your children alone as well - without your new love interest always being present.
  • Be patient. Children typically need time to readjust to a parent dating again. They may show a range of emotions from sadness to anger and jealousy; some may even exhibit acting-out behavior whenever you mention your new love interest. Reassure them as often as necessary that they are a priority and that your relationship won't change. While you can't demand that your children initially like your decision to date, you can require them to be respectful in communicating their feelings.

Telling someone new about your children

When it comes to telling your new love interest about your children, there's no set way to do it. You're going to have to do and say what feels most comfortable for you, but here are a few suggestions to consider:

  • Be honest. Letting your new love interest know that you have children early on is important. If you wait, it may become awkward to bring up later. Not to mention, if he or she runs at the mention of the word "child," it's probably a good thing that you stop seeing this person anyway. Because your children are an important part of who you are, it's perfectly normal to tell your date about them.
  • Don't let your children dominate the conversation. After you tell your date that you have children, don't overwhelm your date by discussing every cute story, milestone or report card. Be sure to discuss other subjects and things that interest you, so your date gets to know more about who you are.
  • Talk to your new love interest about your expectations for his or her involvement in your children's lives. This becomes more relevant if you start seeing someone on a regular basis, but here are some things to consider: Can he or she call the house? At what times? Can he or she discipline your children? Can he or she spend money on your children? These are all things to think about as you get close to someone new and definitely before introducing him or her to your children.

For most people, it takes time to get comfortable dating again, especially when there are children involved. Take your time and when you are ready, go for it! You deserve to be happy, and eventually your children will see it that way too.


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