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When is it OK to Introduce Your Date to the Children?
We might wish that life was simple and conflicts resolved so sweetly as those portrayed in the 60s sitcom, Leave it to Beaver. Sometimes conflicts cannot be resolved, marriages end and Mom begins dating. Some argue that, ideally, Mom and Dad won't date until the kids are grown and on their own. But life is seldom idyllic and we need to ask the question, "When do I introduce that new guy to the kids?"
Before you begin to date again, Make sure the timing is right. Have you healed enough to hedge yourself against the proverbial rebound relationship? Have your children bandaged their wounds? Have you realigned and redefined your relationship with your children as a single mom? Assuming the timing is right, here are a few tips for a successful transition from single-parenting to single-parenting with a boyfriend.
1. Don't introduce every date to your children.
Your heart might flutter and you are excited about the new guy you just met. But honestly! How do you know after the first meeting that he really is "the one" or at least someone you might enjoy spending time with over the course of 6 months, much less a lifetime! Take it slowly for yourself and your child. After a few dates you might discover he has a quick temper or lacks patience with children. Maybe he is Mr. Perfect for the children but Mr. Flawed for you. For the children's sake carefully observe your date's character before seating him at your dinner table. Don't unduly risk someone barking at your child and don't chance your child bonding with someone only to sever that bond in a matter of months. Every relationship involves risk; minimize those risks by exercising patience.
2. We all need friends.
Time has passed since the divorce and you are certain the time is right to begin dating. You have met a potential Mr. Perfect, for you and the children. Now you wonder how to explain dating to your children. Children need explanations they can relate to their own lives. Explain that just as children need friends at school, in their neighborhood, and at church, moms also need friends. Dating is simply a means of nurturing a friendship but, in the future, it might also introduce a different kind of love that will enrich the family's life. Just as a child's friend does not replace a parent, a parent's friend does not replace a child. Create an atmosphere in which the child's life is enriched by your friend, not threatened.
3. The new guy is not a Daddy replacement.
We are all busy but as a single mom you have an even more arduous task than most. You are the sole provider, cook, housekeeper, gardener, and chauffeur. You need a break and a "Dad" figure is oh-so-tempting! You would relish having someone to help you encourage the preschooler to eat his vegetables, the middler to do his homework and the teenager to mow the lawn! But do not even consider abdicating your role as the mother! The kids will not appreciate it and they are likely to put such a strain on the new guy that your relationship will not survive its first tender years. Be certain that you are strong enough to continue the monumental task of mothering and nurturing the relationship with your new love.
4. Keep your hormones in check!
Above all, do not let your hormones race ahead of your common sense. I know, we all have needs but timing is everything if you want to avoid dating disaster in your home. Ease the children into dating, keep communication lines open, and consider the children's needs before your own. They will grow up and you will have the chance to nurture adult relationships later, if not right now.