After a separation from your partner, it can be liberating to feel that you’re ready to date again.
But if you have children — especially young ones — it’s important to approach the subject delicately with them so you’re careful with their feelings, according to dating expert Cameila Ray.
The number of children raised in a single-parent household has risen slightly from 2001 to 2016, with 19.2 per cent of children aged 0-14 living with one guardian.
With so many raising children on their own, Ray recommends speaking to your kids before you even go on a first date, explaining that you’re ready to get back out there
“That way you know what the kids are thinking and feeling,” she said, depending on their age. Teens may expect their parents to be out dating, while those under 12 may feel differently.
“They probably have this affinity to their real parents, and are they still wanting to have their parents get back together? What stage are they at?” she said.
Having that talk with them first will help you determine their feelings and so you can communicate with them about their expectations, she explained.
When you’re ready to introduce a new partner
Tell your kids about a new relationship when you and your partner are ready for a real commitment or you know they will be a stable person in your life, said Ray.
Dating only casually is fine, but if this is the case, you should keep it out of sight for your children, as they may wonder how frequent any new partners will be in their lives, according to Psychology Today.
Further, you and your new partner should have a conversation on expectations for when they interact with the kids, she said.
“Sometimes new partners make the mistake of playing a ‘daddy’ role or ‘mommy’ role…assuming their partner wants them to take that role,” she said.
“It’s even more complicated if that person has their own set of children.”
Don’t force both sets of kids to play together, or to become best friends, she said.
If your children are very young, introduce them slowly at structured events like barbecues and gradually increase the frequency of them being around the family, Ray explained.
It’s also fine to refer to the partner as a new “friend” if they are very young, and always ask your kids how they feel about you seeing them, she said.
“You have to be really mindful of that…how are they reacting?” she said, adding that you should remind them that you love them, and that the new partner won’t take away from the time you spend with them.
For more information about dating as a single parent, watch Cameila Ray in the video above.