Dating is one of the toughest issues single parents face. There are lots of factors to consider when it comes to dating as a parent, including your child's age and emotional makeup. Dating can sometimes be harder for children in single-parent families than it is for the parents themselves. Some younger children have strong fantasies that their parents will get back together or that a new person will immediately take on the role of mom or dad. Older children may feel hostile toward new boyfriends or girlfriends.
Here are dating questions that often come up for single parents:
• Are you ready to start dating? Is your child ready for you to start dating? Deciding when and how to date other people as a single parent can be very confusing. You may feel that you are ready but your child is not, or you may feel that you're not ready. Don't hesitate to keep relationships platonic if you are newly single and still working through issues related to your last relationship. This is better than jumping on another emotional roller coaster, which will undoubtedly affect your child greatly.
• How will you incorporate your child into a new relationship? Will you make your child a part of the relationship right from the beginning, or will you move slowly, bringing your child into it only after the relationship has had time to grow? You may decide that you and your child would feel more comfortable if you started a new relationship by including your child on outings. Or, you may feel it would be better to wait until you have a more solid relationship with the person you're dating before you start doing things together with your child. Remember that it is important to keep the environment as stable as possible for your child.
• How will you explain a new relationship to your child? What will you tell your child about your feelings for someone else? What will you do if your child is angry or upset about your new relationship?
• How will you handle dates or other outings that don't include your child? What will you tell your child if she's upset or angry or feels left out?
• How will you refer to your significant other or the person you are dating? Does your child understand the difference between a boyfriend or girlfriend and a friend or acquaintance?
• How does your new friend treat your child? Does he or she consider your child to be an intrusion or an addition to your life together? Is there resentment of the time that you spend with your child? If so, this might indicate future problems.
• What kind of example are you setting about relationships? Your child will learn about dating by watching you. One of the best ways to teach your child about relationships is to be sure that he or she sees positive relationships.
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