By Tracy Achen
Are you looking for some dating tips to ease your way back into the singles scene? Dating after your divorce can be intimidating not only logistically, but also emotionally. How will the kids react? How does a single person dress and behave? Its uncharted territory, but it can be very rewarding to step outside your comfort zone.
Dating as a single parent is a whole different ballgame than it was before you had kids. These tips can help you get started on the right foot...
1. Realize that you are entitled to have a life. It can sometimes seem like everyone has an opinion about whether you should date or not. But this is your life and you are the one who gets to live it, not someone else. If your kids are young, just imagine how many years you'll be out of the dating scene before they leave home. If you feel ready to date, there is no reason to wait for the perfect time or until the nest is empty.
2. Expect some resistance. Don't expect your kids to be overjoyed when you first start dating. After all, they have had you to themselves for quite a while, and now they have to share. It's a natural reaction. Sit down with them and acknowledge their feelings. Explain that you love them, but you also like to spend time with your friends (just like they do). Not dating out of guilt just makes you a martyr. And as the adult, you get to make the decisions and not your kids.
3. When you're on a date, focus on your date. As a single mom, it's easy for your whole life to be wrapped up in your kids. But they shouldn't be the main topic of conversation during your date. Take some time to find out about this new man; his interests, work, and hobbies. It's fine to talk about your kids, but keep it to a minimum.
4. Your kids don't have to meet every new man. Children get uncomfortable when there's a parade of men taking their Mom out. It's a good idea to keep your dates private until things start to get serious. Doing otherwise can end up making your kids angry or jealous. When it's time for the kids to meet this great new man, make it a casual meeting somewhere other than home.
5. Don't become intimate too soon. It's natural to feel like a teenager with raging hormones when you start dating again. But the bedroom is not the best place to start a relationship. Passion gets confused with love and it's easy to get swept away in a relationship that might ultimately be wrong for you. If your new man isn't willing to wait, then he will have little patience for anything else. A true gentleman won't push too hard and will respect your feelings. And you ultimately want him to respect you.
6. Take it slow. A new relationship can feel like a breath of fresh air and it's easy to want the relationship to develop at a fast pace. Give yourself time to really get to know this new man. If the relationship has long-term possibilities, then taking it slow won't hurt. It will give your kids time to adjust to him, and he can really get to know you as their mother.
7. Use discretion. When you're caught up in the excitement of a new relationship, you might not realize that all that cuddling and kissing isn't appropriate in front of a young audience. If your kids have said "Get a room", you know you've taken it too far. You need to think about the behavior you are modeling for your kids. Try to behave the same way you want your kids to conduct themselves when they reach their teens and early adulthood.
8. Parenting responsibilities belong to you. Don't be tempted to have your new boyfriend take on any parenting roles until it seems reasonable. What do I mean? For example, it would be weird to have him pick your child up from practice until he's a regular fixture in your life. And don't even think about having him discipline your children. Your kids will resent it and may even end up holding a grudge against him.
9. Balance your priorities. Even if your child's out-of-town games give you the opportunity to spend some alone time with your new boyfriend, you need to think it through. If your presence at the game would mean the world to your child, find an alternate time to be with your boyfriend. Like maybe when they are spending the weekend with their Dad or are away on a camping trip.
10. Break-ups can be hard. If you've taken it slow and developed the relationship over time, breaking up can be hard for both you and your children. Unfortunately, loss and change are part of life. Sit down with your kids, explain the situation, and listen to their concerns. And give them and yourself time to heal before jumping back into the dating pool.
If you're not quite sure you're ready to start actually going out to meet men at bars and other social gatherings, you might consider online matchmaking. For help finding Mr. Right, check out Single Parent Meet, Match.com, or eHarmony where you can narrow the field by specifying age, education level and more.
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