So, you’re a single mom, and you’re doing OK. Congratulations1 You’ve taken on the tough job of coping alone and raising a family, and you’re surviving. Not only that, you’re dating again, so you’re well on the road to a new and happier life.
But, dating as a single mom opens up a new list of problems. Your kids are your first conv cern, and you know they’ve probably been through a lot. They’ve had to cope with the loss of their dad (if they were old enough to know him) and they’ve learned to rely on you to be both Mom and Dad in their lives. If you’ve started seeing someone, you have to think carefully about how, and when to introduce him to the kids. Tell them too soon, and you risk upsetting the applecart by letting them get to know someone who may or may not stay part of their lives.
- Wait until the relationship is established. It might be difficult, if you are used to sharing everything with your kids, but the best idea is to wait a good while before introducing them to your new man. Give the relationship time to develop. You don’t want the kids to have a succession of ‘uncles’ who may not stay around for long. If they’ve already experienced the loss of their father, the last thing they need is to place trust and love in someone else who subsequently walks out of their lives. A period of around 6 months is probably a good rule of thumb.
- Check your new man’s feelings. Another good reason to give it time is that you really need to get to know your man’s feelings towards kids. He may be a little anxious, especially if he doesn’t have kids of his own and hasn’t much experience of them. You need to give him time too! Talk it through with him, so that when he does meet your children he feels happy and confident about it.
- Have a few informal chats with the kids about the possibility of your dating again before you hit them with the fact that you have met someone. Sound out their feelings and try to allay any worries they may have. They might worry that if you have a new man, their dad will be forced further away from their lives, so reassure them that this isn’t going to happen. If your children are clearly unhappy with the idea of your dating, don’t push it at first. Just answer their questions and let them adjust to the idea.
- Bring your man’s name into the conversation sometimes. Talk about other friends too, but just mentioning his name and perhaps telling the kids about some of the things you’ve done togerther will help to familiarize them with him befor they actually meet. If he has an interesting job or hobby, tell them about it…it may make them keen to get to know him and will give them all something to talk about when they do get together.
- If your new boyfriend has kids, chat about them too. Don’t make your children feel that they are expected to become friends with his children at first, just casually mention them, in conversation.
- Make the first meeting informal, and keep the pressure off. It’s best if you can let them meet him as part of a crowd they already know, so they aren’t forced to spend all the time talking to him if they aren’t too confident. If you can tie in the first meeting with a fun activity like a day at the beach or lake, so much the better. Having something to do eases the need to talk and makes the whole event less stressful for everyone. It lets the kids assosciate him with having a good time too.
- Take it slowly. Once you have introduced them all, don’t expect your kids and your man to see each other all the time. Keep doing the other activities you always did with your kids without him being around, and make sure you still have other friends around when your kids are about. Whatever the temptation, don’t talk about him all the time.
- Give your man clues about things your kids like to do, or to talk about. If he isn’t used to kids this can really help him…and the kids will feel they have something in common with him too.
- Make sure he doesn’t try to be a father to your kids too soon. If your kids already have a Dad that they see, they’ll resent this. If they don’t have a father figure they will still be uncomfortable with this type of behaviour, however well intentioned it is. If the kids need scolding, do it when he’s not around, and don’t let him get involved.
- Don’t patronise your kids or underestimate their intelligence. Older kids will be looking for signs of the new ‘friend’ being more than just a friend, so be honest if they ask you about it.
- Try not to be too outwardly affectionate to each other at first when the kids are around. Take it slowly, don’t be kissing and cuddling until the children have had a chance to get used to things.
- Wait plenty before you ask him over to stay the night. It can come as quite a shock to your kids to see another man in Mommy’s bedroom, so resist the temptation to let this happen too soon. You need to know your kids are really comfortable with him and with the situation before you let this happen.
If you’ve followed all the steps and made the introductions in an honest and sensitive way, your children and your new man should be fine. But accept that there will be a transition period while they all adjust to the new situation. You have every right to have a boyfriend and a happy relationship, and it is part of your kids’ growing up that they learn to accept this.