How to Date a Single Parent

A man with his daughter who can tell you a few things about how to date a single parent.

Dating can be tough, and dating a single parent is even tougher. It requires a different dating skill set that includes patience and understanding, not to mention coping with an ex that might still be in the picture. If you want to know how to date a single parent, basically, it’s complicated.

It’s not surprising, then, that some people are apprehensive about it. But dating a single mom or dad can be an amazing and fulfilling experience. It just requires some extra adjustments to how you approach your relationship.

Here’s what to keep in mind when dating a single parent—because dating someone with kids is completely different than dating someone without kids.

Their kids will always come first.
“As they should,” says dating expert, Simone Paget. “You need to understand that not everything is going to be about you, all the time.” As much as you might desire lavish attention from the new person you’re interested in, you’ll have to get used to sharing his or her attention with their children.

Their time is precious.
If you’re interested in a single parent, chances are, his or her free time is very limited. “Their schedule is bound to be a bit more complicated and less flexible than yours,” says Paget. “They likely can’t just drop everything to hang out at a moment’s notice. You have to plan ahead.” Between running around her kids to dentist appointments and gymnastic classes, not to mention running a household and managing a career, a single mom doesn’t have a whole lot of free time. Don’t take it personally and value the time you’re able to share together.

Their ex is probably still in the picture.
Situations differ, but most likely a single dad is continuing to co-parent with his ex, which means they’re in regular contact, and will be for the foreseeable future. “You have to deal with the reality that the single parent’s ex is always going to be part of their child’s life—and by periphery yours,” says Paget. “Dating a single parent is obviously going to be easier if they have a good relationship with their ex, but this isn’t always the case. Whether it’s a deal breaker totally depends on the situation and the individuals involved.” Even in the most amicable scenarios, this can be a tricky spot for you, and could bring up some difficult feelings. You’ll have to decide whether or not you can handle it.

You should like children.
This might seem obvious, but it’s something to seriously consider when you’re thinking about how to date a single parent. “If you can’t stand children, dating a single parent probably isn’t going to be your jam,” says Paget. “If the relationship gets serious, you have to be comfortable with the idea of spending time with their children. So, while you may not want your own biological offspring, you need to be 100% comfortable with the fact that your future together will involve children.” Maybe it’s too soon in your relationship to decide whether you and the person you’re with are meant to be in it for the long haul, but if you’re looking for a committed relationship then you should know whether or not you like or want children in your life.

Meeting the kids is a pretty big deal. Or not.
Each single parent will handle the introduction to his or her kids differently. It might come sooner in the courtship or later. Try your best not to freak out about it, and talk to your date if you have any concerns. The kids might instantly like you, or they might reject you, given their loyalty to the absent parent. Like any other relationship, trust takes time to develop so be patient. Don’t bribe them with gifts, either, because kids can see straight through that gimmick. When in doubt be yourself, and remember you are the adult.

Choosing to date a single parent won’t be as simple as dating a person without kids, but that doesn’t have to be a negative thing. As Paget notes, “Solo parenting is hard. When you date a single parent, you’re dating someone who is resilient and doesn’t shy away from challenges or responsibilities—all of which are admirable qualities.” If a single parent wants you to be apart of their life, appreciate it and enjoy the ride.

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