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Dating with Children: Are You Ready?
By Mary Jayne Rogers Ph.D.
Those who are newly single parents may find themselves in an unusual situation; dating with kids - how does that work? After all, traditionally and probably the last time you were dating, there were no pre-existing children. Making the decision to date involves a lot of consideration about your children and the situation you find yourselves in as a family. Your choices about dating will affect your relationship with your kids as well as the well-being of your family. As the daughter of parents who were each married three times and as a single parent for 15 years, I look back from a wellness perspective to offer a checklist of points to consider about dating and how to decide when it is time for your date to meet the kids.
- Ask yourself am I ready to start dating? This is important. Too often we carry around old habits and hurts from our prior relationship. When we bring that to a new relationship, we poison the water. We end up repeating relationship mistakes and wonder why we can't find "the right one." We certainly don't want to take our kids down that path over and over again. Be clear about your readiness.
- Be Candid with your kids about the prospect of you dating. You need to communicate your feelings about wanting to date. However be assured, it is your decision, not theirs.
- Understand that the ages of your children makes a big difference when it comes to comprehending a new person in your life and potentially their lives. If your children are old enough to have a conversation, then sharing your thoughts about dating helps to open a channel of communication. Regardless of age, your children need to know that they are loved and are the priority in your life.
- Reassure your children that introducing a new person into your life will not compete with them for your love, nor will that person replace their other parent.
- Share with your children what is happening with you on the dating front. Otherwise it feels to the child as though you are being secretive or hiding something. Just as you would like your children to communicate with you about their lives, they in turn want to know what you are up to. Of course this communication should be appropriate, e.g. "I met a very nice person at work today. She/He may be an interesting person to get to know." Don't lay things out for your kids that you wouldn't tell your own mother.
- Ask them. If you are dating casually, maybe your kids want to meet the person/people you are dating. Maybe they do not. Ask them how they feel. This does not have to mean a family date, but something easy such as an introduction before you leave on a date. You will expect that when your child starts dating. Perhaps this is the time to set an example.
- Investigate. Be as sure as you possibly can that the person you are dating is safe. The first few dates may seem unbelievably fantastic, and too often they are - unbelievable that is. Remember that yours and your children's well-being are vulnerable when a new, untested person is introduced into the mix.
- Protect yourself and your family. Dating can be challenging when you have kids to consider. But the bottom line is that they are your priority. Your date may be the person you will spend the rest of your life with, but it is likely that you will date many people before you find that special one. In the meantime remember; while dates may come and go, your kids will always be your kids. Their childhood will not last forever. You only get one chance at it. Do your absolute best to protect them from unsavory characters or situations.
- Be clear with your date. Just as you have assured your children that they are your priority, be clear to your date that your children are your priority. The person you are dating needs to respect that. You will no doubt want to establish some guidelines and boundaries in your dating relationships so that there are no misunderstandings or hurt feelings.
- Be Happy. Your children are very sensitive to your emotions. They want you to be happy. Help them to see that you are making choices that are good for your well-being and for theirs and that these decisions bring you happiness.
Life as a single parent has trials, but it also provides tremendous opportunities to teach your children important life lessons about communication, healthy relationships, and the power of family. Taking time to work through this checklist can help you feel confident about your choices and the person you are dating. In turn, your kids will trust your judgment, respond to your happiness and grow to be well-adjusted adults.
About the Author:
Dr. Mary Jayne Rogers is an Exercise Physiologist specializing in whole-person wellness and fitness education and instruction. As an educator, Mary Jayne brings multi-dimensional wellness and fitness experiences along with a welcoming and genuine teaching style to inspire students and wellness enthusiasts of all ages. Dr. Rogers is the owner of Profound Wellness LLC. www.doctormaryjayne.com.
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