Dating can be daunting. And when you have kids, it can feel like trying to juggle while driving a motorcycle! But making it work is definitely possible.
When do I start? Give yourself time to reestablish your self-esteem on your own and to spend quality time with your children, your friends, and your family. However — don’t wait too long. Being single for over one year can increase your anxiety and also create unrealistic expectations of who the perfect person must be.
Perspective, not guilt! You’re going out on a date, you’re not looking for the new father of your children. Focus on this week, not forever. Have fun. Go shopping, get yourself some semi casual clothing that’s dressy enough but also comfortable for those first dates, do some self-care — your hair, your nails, everyone notices shoes and a smile. Your kids will always be a priority but a healthy, happy parent is one who also takes time for themselves and for some adult fun. You deserve it!
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Be honest — do mention on your profile that you have kids and what age group they are in, but do not post your children’s photos online. Be realistic — everyone has baggage and drama when they’ve been through a relationship that's produced children. What is important is how the baggage has been packed away and that the drama was rare and not an ongoing cycle.
Build with honest and open messages, and keep them fun. When you find someone with potential after a few messages, move to a live phone call or even a video call, when you do not have your children in the background. Go with your gut feeling, if you enjoy the conversation and you’re not thinking, “how do I politely get out of this?” then this is a person that is worth scheduling a babysitter for and going out to meet in person.
Dress for success. You want something that shows you’ve been to the gym but doesn’t reveal too much. People notice that you smile, that you look at them rather than at other people in the restaurant and that you actually listen to what they are saying. It’s perfectly OK to bring your phone, just explain to your date that you will only answer it if it is your child or your babysitter calling, and if that does happen keep the call short. Keep conversations about your children to a five minute maximum and stay away from talking about your ex. Focus on the person you are with!
Solid relationships that are authentic are usually built slowly with a good foundation, preferably getting to know each other before things become intimate, as that can lead people — especially women — to feeling as though having sex has established a bond when in reality it is physiologically the hormone oxytocin, known as the love hormone, being released.
Expect resistance from your kids no matter what age they are. They’ve already been through a change in their home and their parents dynamics so their anxiety level is raised whenever a new person comes within their circle. A good rule of thumb is to not introduce a new person until 3 to 6 months after you have met and started dating and when you do, introduce them as a “friend”. Let your kids get used to the new friend before you start having sleepovers. If you both have kids, after three months you could try a kid outing with everybody together in a public place like a skating arena, mini golf, or a zoo.
Enjoy and have fun with the initial infatuation phase — plan romantic dates and adventures together, and send each other sexy messages. When this phase melds into the next one, at about six months down the road, look at the next phase in a positive frame. This is when you really start to appreciate the other person in 3-D. You get to know their intricacies, the depth of their personality, and start to appreciate if they have the qualities that you would want around your children.
Dating with kids also means some new red flags to watch for:
In summary, focus on the present and enjoy every new day. Appreciate the different perspectives you get to listen to from your new partner, from your children, and from their children. Keep your mind open to non-traditional parenting roles and how dating someone with children just gives you that much more to enjoy and look forward to!