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A Special Note for Single Parents
Do you have a childcare system in place so that your children are encouraged and ministered to when you socialize?
No one likes feeling left out or abandoned, especially children who might already feel like a parent has left them emotionally. This is common in single-parent homes. Make a plan for your dating life. Date on the weekends when the children are with the other parent. Create a single-parent baby-sitting co-op where single parents take turns creating a party-like atmosphere for the children. You’ll need to take your turn hosting a fun night for the kids. Or arrange to hire a consistent childcare provider who really cares for your children. Even a teen who is like an older brother or sister will help a child feel like they are in a family again. Older couples can act as surrogate grandparents (or the children’s actual grandparents can be a nice option as well). The important issues to consider are:
• Does the child look forward to this childcare option?
• Is it safe—emotionally, physically, and spiritually?
• Does it buy you more time (not less) with your child?
Have you talked with the children about their feelings regarding you dating again?
After the children have settled into a new routine, the divorce is final, and you feel you have personally recovered and set a healthy plan for your dating life, then approach the children about your dating. If you have younger children, they might have already brought up the topic—often with some uncomfortable questions such as “Why don’t I have a dad?” and “Why don’t you get married again and get me a mommy?” Teens might make comments like “Mom, you need to get out once in a while.” However, don’t let your children’s concerns and questions be the determining factor on dating. Date when you and your children are both ready.
What do you do when you think you are ready, but your children aren’t? Perhaps they are holding out for a miraculous reconciliation between you and your ex. Or maybe they don’t want to give up being “the man of the house” or “the woman of the house.” What if you find resistance?
First try talking it through. Often, if you set aside time to listen to your child, you may discover an underlying fear or frustration which you can address. Also, it helps if they hear from you the kind but honest reality of a situation. For example, “I know you want mommy and daddy to live together again, but honey, that is something that just isn’t going to happen.” Then explain why in a simple one- or two-sentence explanation. “Daddy is dating another person.” “It just isn’t safe to live with Daddy anymore.” Try to be honest without degrading the other person. It often helps to explain that you want to go do things with your friends. This sounds less threatening than “Mom’s dating” or “Dad has a girlfriend.”
Also, keep your child(ren)’s best interest in mind. When my own parents divorced (Pam), my mother went for years without dating much. She had a few men in her life as friends, but she quickly saw that she wasn’t ready for a relationship and neither were any of us kids. We were all between the ages of 15 and 20, but we’d been hurt by our father and hurt from all the disruption the divorce caused. Soon my mother realized that it was healthier for her relationship with all of us if she waited to date until my youngest brother was away at college. She put her social life on hold for the greater good of our family. I respect her so much for this decision. Instead of dating, she put her time into personal growth for her. She spent time assessing the hurt we’d been through and found ways to help us recover. And she spent a huge amount of quality time developing deeper relationships with each of us. She also created ways for my brother to gain healthy male role models in his life.
My mother worked hard after the divorce at a new career, so she could have easily felt she “deserved” to date and have a little fun. Instead, she looked at what her children deserved and put us first. After my brother went away to school, mom did invest more into group social activities and met a wonderful man who shared her same values. They eventually married and were quite happy until his untimely death from a heart attack. We wondered if mom felt her time with her new husband was robbed because she delayed dating, but she reassured us that she’d do it all again—only she would have decided even sooner not to date until my brother was away at college. My mother made a short sacrifice that has paid long-term benefits.