Dating is hard enough with two people. When one or both of you has kids, things can get downright complicated. There are extra emotions and opinions to consider, and a whole lot of “what if?” scenarios to ponder. But if you’re ready to meet someone, don’t let having kids stop you. In fact, being a parent can actually make you a better dater: You’re strong, you’re capable, and you don’t have time for playing games (unless that game is Candy Land). Dating with kids is possible, and here are some ways to make it less scary.
1. Be honest with yourself about what you’re looking for in someone.
Consider your motivations for dating. Are you afraid of being alone? Are you worried your kids won’t have a second parent? Do you just want to have a little fun, or are you ready to settle down? Knowing what you’re looking for and why you’re looking for it will help you make smarter dating decisions that better protect you and your family.
2. Take your time.
Regardless of how your last relationship ended, it’s best to take things slow for a while. Jumping into another relationship too quickly can be tricky; the sooner you start dating, the more resistant your kids will likely be to your new date. Only you will know how much time is the right amount for you, but the key is to make sure both you and your kids are at peace with how your last relationship ended. You’ll know you’re ready to start dating when you don’t need to do it, but simply want to do it.
3. But don’t waste your time.
Dating with kids involves making a schedule and sticking to it. You’re already juggling parent/teacher conferences, play dates, and carpool duty. If someone can’t commit to drinks or keeps canceling on dinner, it’s ok to move on to the next match. Your time is precious, and there’s someone out there who is worthy of having it.
4. Check in with your kids.
Depending on how old your kids are they’ll have a range of reactions to you dating. If your kids are in elementary or middle school, they might feel insecure or scared of how your relationship with them could change. If your kids are teenagers or adults, they’ll likely be more aware of the possibilities and might be extra protective of you. The best thing you can do is check in with them and ensure you have solid family relationships before pursuing a romantic one.
5. Be honest about your situation.
Maybe you mention your kids right away in your online dating profile, or maybe you wait a few dates to see if things get serious before bringing them up. There’s no one correct way to have “the kids” talk. Just know that when things start to get serious with somebody, it affects more than just you—it also affects your children, so honesty is the best policy. Of course, how much information you share is up to you. If your kids are a big part of your life, don’t be afraid to bring them up and brag about them! But if you’re still getting to know somebody and would rather not share too much personal information about your family, that’s ok too.
6. Put yourself first sometimes.
There’s no escaping it—if you’re dating with kids, at some point you’re going to feel guilty. You might feel guilty for spending time away from your children, or for spending money on yourself. Put the guilt aside and put yourself first for a change. Remember, you’re a parent, but you’re also a person! It’s wonderful that you usually put your kids first, but it’s your turn. Wanting to date is natural, and if you let your feelings of guilt win every time, sooner or later you’ll resent that you never tried dating again.