In Parent Education classes, single parents dating or those looking into a Christian matchmaking dating service routinely ask this question: “When can I introduce my children to the person I am dating?”
In a previous article, we discussed how difficult it is being a Christian Single Parent. But it doesn’t matter whether the single parents dating are Christian singles or unbelievers, the issues are still the same. All single parents, custodial or non-custodial, need to take special care when brooching the subject of dating with their kids.
Before a dating single parent even thinks about introducing someone new into their child’s life, they should understand where the child is emotionally during this time.
Depending on the different circumstances that each single parent’s kids have gone through, their reaction to the single parent dating may take on one of several forms.
- They may be fearful of losing the single parent. This is especially true in cases where the other parent has died or abandoned the family. The thinking here goes along these lines: “I lost my dad. Is my mom next?”
- They may be overly possessive and jealous of the single parent’s love, not wanting to share mom and/or dad with anyone else. It’s not uncommon under these circumstances for the child (usually a teenager) to act out against the single dating parent and their partner, which can cause major problems for any relationship.
- They may not trust any outsiders. This occurs in cases where the non-custodial single parent or ex-lover may have abused or neglected the child.
- They may secretly be hoping “mommy and daddy” will get back together again, and will act out ways to accomplish this.
- They may be grossed out or upset by their single parent dating mom or dad expressing romantic feelings for someone other than the other parent.
Single parents thinking about dating should take care because their children almost certainly will experience one or more of the above issues. Before a single parent introduces another person, there are several practical steps he or she can take to help the child and their dating relationship at the same time.
The first thing to do if you are a single parent not dating is to not rush into a “rebound relationship” in order to fill the void in your own life. The honest truth is you’re not ready for it, and neither are your children.
Parenting experts suggest at least a one year’s wait between relationships. Why do they suggest this? How often do we see single parents dating go from one dysfunctional relationship to the next without ever learning from the past? And how about the children who get more confused as they experience loss after loss?
Instead, use this “singleness time” as an opportunity to heal, learn and grow as a single parent. Minister to your children, and let God and His people minister to you. Find a Christian singles group where your heart can find peace and acceptance. God has not forsaken or left you (Hebrews 13:5), and will lead you into a relationship when you are ready. 🙂
Secondly,Â single parents datingÂ should keep lines of communication wide open between themselves and their children. Find out what the kids are thinking or fearing and honestly discuss it with them. If they just hate the idea of mom or dad dating, don’t force it on them. Allow them to express themselves, as you practice patience and compassion with your kids. A few sessions with a respected Christian counselor or experienced minister may also help.
Thirdly, the single parent already in a dating relationship should discuss these issues with the person they are seeing, and make a plan on when, where and how they would introduce them to the children. Of course, if you are a Christian I am assuming your dating relationship is not based on casual sex, but is in fact a steady relationship with a committed believer, looking toward the possibility of marriage. Isn’t that the reason you are dating in the first place? It’s interesting that both secular and Christian parenting experts suggest that single parents dating should think twice before introducing their children to people they are casually dating.
If the single parent dating partner reacts selfishly or simply cannot understand the children’s issues, I would pray about cutting losses and ending the relationship, since this would be just the beginning of problems.
Finally, when the single parent dating does decide to introduce their partner to the children, parenting experts suggest it be with little fanfare. In other words, introduce your special friend like you would any other friend, male or female. Avoid using words like love and dating, and do a fun, low stress activity. Only after children have spent several times meeting with the other person, should the single dating parent discuss the nature of the relationship.
Perhaps you are a single parent dating, and would like to share your dating tips with other single parents? Feel free to submit them here.
Note: David Butler, the author of this article, teaches Parent Education classes for the state of New Jersey, USA.