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10 Tips for Single Parents (with Teens) Who Want to Know How to Start Dating Again
Today’s society is complicated. Our relationships are complicated and our families are complicated. We’ve got step-families and blended families, exes and adopted family members, estranged family and new family. It’s not easy. And when we try to start changing up the family dynamics when our own children are teens, it gets even more complicated. Teens often overreact to changes in the home which means it can be really difficult if you’re in the position of being the single parent of a teenager and you want to get back into the dating game. But, complicated is a part of our lives now, and the fact that it gets complicated shouldn’t hold you back from pursuing that path in life.
Here are ten tips to follow if you’re a single parent with a teenager who doesn’t really want you to start dating again but you’re ready to make that leap for yourself anyway:
1. Foster open discussions about relationships in your home. The more capable you are of having an ongoing dialogue with your teen about all kinds of relationships, the easier it’s going to be to discuss the situation of you dating. You’ll probably have to be the one that does a lot of the work for awhile – starting conversations, keeping them calm, letting your teen know that you’re there to talk as well as to listen. It can feel like it will never be beneficial when your teen doesn’t respond positively. But in the end, these discussions will improve over time and you will have a positive relationship with your child no matter what happens in your dating life.
2. Put your teen first. This doesn’t mean that you sacrifice your dating life for the needs or desires of your teen. It just means that you make a commitment to always putting your family first. This means if there’s ever a situation where your kids really need you or the person you’re dating mistreats them, you automatically and naturally put the kids first. The more you do this, the more open your kids will be to your dating.
3. Keep your dates away from the home at first. The main thing that really upsets teens about their parents dating is that it’s changing things at home. This is minimized if you do your dating outside of the home and away from the kids, at least while you’re first getting to know someone. Your kids don’t have to meet everyone you date. You can have coffee dates that they don’t even know about. Only after it gets serious do you need to get your kids involved.
4. Respect your kids’ feelings about the situation. You don’t have to change your behavior but you should acknowledge that you dating is hard for your kids for many different reasons. Respect their feelings. Give them room to vent those feelings appropriately and don’t take it personally.
5. Ask for some input from your kids about what could improve the situation for them. Teens really need to feel like they have some control over their lives. No, they shouldn’t control your dating. But get input on things that they can have a say in – like whether they’d be more comfortable if your date joined you for dinner at the home or if you all went out together.
6. Ask your kids if you can have a weekly or monthly date alone with them, just you and the kids. Making time for your kids (even when they think they don’t want to hang out with you) can help a lot with the dating situation because they’re less likely to feel like your dates are taking you away from them. Make sure you’re actively doing things with them that they enjoy doing. Fun adds a lot of good feelings to the relationship you have with your teens.
7. Don’t engage in discussions that compare you dating to them dating. Many single parents make the mistakes of getting into fights with their teens who want to date and allowing them to relate it to the parent dating. Make clear rules about how you feel about your teens dating and focus all discussions of that topic on the teen only. Don’t allow any feelings about your own dating situation to get mixed up in those conversations. If your teen tries to take it there, let him or her know that you’re happy to discuss that topic at another time but that the focus for that particular conversation is on the teen.
8. Keep your sexuality toned down. It’s great that you’re dating again and that you’re getting sexually involved with someone. Your kids don’t need to know that side of you. It’s not appropriate so be responsible with how you behave sexually around your children.
9. Remember that you are the parent. Ultimately, you are the adult in the house. It’s great that you respect your child’s opinion on the matter, that you’re open about discussing the situation and that you’re trying to keep peace in the home. But, in the end, you are the adult and if you want to date someone and your teen doesn’t like it, well, that’s just too bad.
10. Respect yourself. Finally, it’s important that you respect yourself as you do your dating. Choose dates who treat you well. Be clear with your kids about your right as an adult to date. Honor this right and don’t feel guilty about it or treat yourself poorly as a result of this desire. If you are treating yourself right about this, your teens will eventually come around and treat you right as well.
When you’ve decided that you’re ready to start dating again as a single parent of teens, you have to be prepared for their emotional reactions. Be patient. Be kind to yourself and to them. Make sure that you put your family first and your dating life second even as you give your dating life the attention it deserves. If things don’t get better, consider getting individual or family counseling to further resolve the issues. Life is complicated these days but it can definitely be managed if you’re committed to it!