Before Oasis Church, our NonDenominational Church in NJ, was a twinkle in my eye, one of my responsibilities was to teach Parent Education classes to parents going through divorce in the state of NJ. It was here that I routinely heard soon to be single parents ask this question: "When can I introduce my children to the person I am dating?" The truth is, all single parents, custodial or non-custodial, need to take special care when broaching the subject of dating with their kids.
Single Parenting & Dating Red Flags
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. Come on, you never saw The Parent Trap?
- 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.
Practical Steps for the New Single 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 newly single parent not dating is to not rush into a "rebound relationship" in order to assuage your self esteem and loss 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 spiritually as a single parent. Find a church Support Group where your heart can find peace and acceptance.God has not forsaken or left you (Deuteronomy 31:6), and will lead you into a relationship when you are ready. :)
Secondly, parents 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 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, unless you really want to hurt and abuse yourself, I am assuming your dating relationship is not based on casual sex, but is in fact a steady relationship with a committed person looking toward the possibility of marriage. 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 your dating partner reacts selfishly or simply cannot understand the children's issues, I would think hard about cutting losses and ending the relationship, since this would be (believe me) just the beginning of your parenting problems if you stayed in this relationship. After all, yours kids come first, right?
Finally, when you do decide to introduce your partner to the children, I 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. Can I translate for you? No slobbering over each other until you know you and the kids are ready for it.
Perhaps you are a single parent dating, and going thru a rough time? Oasis is a church for both families and singles, and we would love to help your situation, whatever it is. We are Authentic. We are Caring. We are Different. You might like what your find, so come for a visit this Sunday. :)
Oasis is a 3 year old NJ (C&MA) Non-Denominational Church Movement with totally LIVE services in 2 FUN locations for the whole family. It's blog has attracted over 120,000 monthly visits at times.
Oasis meets Sundays 11am at Snuffy's Pantagis Renaissance at 250 Park Ave in Scotch Plains. The church utilizes the awesome ballrooms for its service. Oasis equals great Kids programs, a worshipful but Rockin' band, relevant messages for everyday life & a chance to meet new friends. :)
The second location gathers Sundays 10am "Sharp" at the Regal Hadley Cinema in South Plainfield , where it rents 3 theaters for adults and the kiddos.
Need more info? Call 732-406-7821.