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Single Parent Relationships Tips

Read these 6 Single Parent Relationships Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Relationship tips and hundreds of other topics.

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Single Parent Dating

One of the biggest challenges for dating single-parents is establishing the role a new boyfriend or girlfriend should take in regards to authority and discipline. The following guidelines should be helpful:

If your dating partner has met and is regularly around your children, you've obviously reached a point that the relationship is pretty serious.

From a child's earliest days, it's a parent's job to teach them to be respectful of others. No matter how much they like or don't like Uncle Billy or your 3rd cousin or a grumpy grampa, it is their obligation to treat that person with respect. The same goes for how your child treats your partner.

It's generally best to let the parent handle discipline, rules, and authority over the children. The parent's partner can be a friend, a supportive adult, and a buddy but should avoid the role of disciplinarian.

Once the dating partner becomes a part of the family, either by marriage or by cohabitation, then it is reasonable for the step-parent to assume greater responsibility as an authority figure. This should be negotiated and agreed upon by both adults however and not in front of the children. Rules and expectations should be articulated to the children as “the rules of the house” not “his rules” or “her rules” that can be dismissed as coming from someone “who's not my parent anyway.”

In general, the primary parent should always be seen as the ultimate authority.


Sex & Being a Single Parent

The subject of sex is likely to come up eventually for all parents. Regardless of your particular moral or religious beliefs about sex before marriage, there are several things to consider about how to handle sex as a dating single parent.

Parents should keep an open door policy for kids to ask questions about sex. It doesn't mean they'll always come to you, but if you let them know they can and you won't freak out at the mention of the word, they are more likely to talk to you about it.

If your values dictate no sex before marriage, it may postpone questions from your children. Once you and your new spouse share a bedroom, however, children may ask questions ranging from the explicit (Do you guys have sex?) to the suggestive (Why do you keep your bedroom door closed?). Help them understand that what married adults do in their bedroom is private.


Challenges of Single Parent Dating

One of the biggest challenges in single-parent dating is competition for the parent's attention and affection. The children may be used to a level of focus from the parent that's hard to share with some new man or woman in your life.

And it's not just the kids who will pressure you as a dating single parent. The adult who you're dating has needs too. That person is going out with you for a reason: they enjoy your company and your attention and spending time with you.

So if you're a single parent who's in a relationship, prepare to feel caught in the middle. Get used to being there. And start accumulating some tools to deal with it.

  • The child is, on one hand, expressing a healthy need for reassurance that they aren't going to be replaced or left behind. Reassure them that they are your top priority and always will be.
  • The child is, on the other hand, learning from early on how to share. That includes sharing what every child thinks is his or hers to demand whenever they want: namely your undivided attention. That's not some sort of inalienable right. Sure, kids need and deserve a ton of your attention. But even in the absence of a new boyfriend or girlfriend, parents are entitled to say “This is my time now.”
  • Teaching a child to share not just their toys but YOU is actually a gift you're giving them that will make life easier for them as kids, teens, and adults.
  • Adult boyfriends and girlfriends need to share too. They are the ADULTS so should be mature, and work with you as you seek balance. If they don't appreciate that you're a package deal, the relationship can't succeed.


Dating Techniques for Single Parents

One of the first challenges that face single parents when they start to date is what to say to their children. Do you tell them or keep it secret until it gets serious? And if you do tell them, how much do you share?

Once you do start to date, be honest but don't share too much. “I'm going out with a new friend” is sufficient. Whatever hopes or expectations you have about a new dating relationship isn't something to share with your kids. Dating relationships often don't work out. Your child doesn't need to ride that roller-coaster with you.

Resist the temptation with kids and teens to treat them like your confidante. That's NOT their role (this isn't just true about dating, by the way). Pre-teens and teens in particular will often sense what's going on, even with limited information. They see you get dressed up for a date “with a friend” and they figure it out. Nonetheless, it's critical that you be able to lovingly but firmly set a boundary with them. “Sweetheart, I understand you're curious, but talking about this is really my business. If and when there's something important I need to share, I'll share that with you. But till then, this is really my private business, OK?”

Often what kids are really looking for is simple reassurance that you aren't going to disappear, to run off with this new person. If you're a single parent, they've probably already experienced some loss and may have feelings (rational or irrational though they may be) of abandonment about their other parent. Reassure them that no matter what, you are always there for them and always will be.


Single Parents: Take A Break

If you are recently separated from the parent or step-parent of your child or children, the first tip to consider is simple, but not easy: Take a break before getting into another relationship. Even without children, most experts recommend that folks who are recently broken up have too many emotions stirred up to enter a new relationship without it getting messy. Rebounding into something new is seductive because it's a band-aid over the pain and loss of a breakup. It's much easier to focus on the positive, exciting, sexy, warm and fuzzy feelings of a new involvement than the yucky feelings brought up by yesterday's breakup. But those feelings are still in there. They will come out eventually, and they'll affect the new relationship. Better to wait, grieve the old, and let it go before entering into the new. Six months to a year is a reasonable break to shoot for.


Sex & Being a Single Parent

Singles dealing with the issue of sex during dating is scary enough. Trying to figure out how to handle dating and sex as a single parent may feel like it is enough to push you over the edge. If you are one of the brave ones (a.k.a. have children and dating), consider the following:

  • Practice safe sex. Reckless behavior is no longer an option as a parent. You risk your child becoming an orphan every time you have unprotected sex.
  • Just because you start having sex with someone you're dating does not mean it's time to introduce them to your child.
  • Don't introduce your kids to someone you're dating until a) you've determined that this is a good safe person; and b) the relationship is one you take seriously enough to think that this person may be in your life for a while.
  • Do not let your children see a dating partner “stay over” until the relationship is serious. Kids will eventually deduce that staying over means you're having sex. They shouldn't see this with multiple casual partners.

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Guru Spotlight
Barbara Gibson