The Rules of Engagement When Dating as a Single Parent

Dating and the single parent is always an interesting topic—what are the rules of engagement when children are involved? As if dating isn’t difficult enough on its own at times, there are additional elements at play for single parents. They often have budgets, priorities and schedules that differ widely from those of their childless single counterparts--which contribute an additional layer to the experience. One of the most important questions that parents seek to tackle in regards to dating, however, is: when is the right time to introduce your child to someone you’re dating?

This is a loaded question, as there are a variety of factors that play into it: how old is the child? What is his or her level of maturity—can s/he understand what it means to date? How involved is the other parent in the child’s life? Is this person someone you are, or are planning to be serious with? How well do you think you know the person you’re dating?

As likely evidenced by the title of my blog, I am a single parent and as such I do date. My method has always been to keep the people I date separate from my son, and to allow someone to meet him only once I’m sure that things are--or have the potential to be--serious. It has never been worth it to me to bring someone into his life unless they’d be there for a while.

I do not, however, keep the fact that I date a secret from my son. Of course my approach with him has changed over the years; when he was younger, it wasn’t worth bringing up at all; but now he’s old enough (at 12) to understand what it means to date or to have a boyfriend. And I’ve reached an age where marriage has become a priority for my future; so I need him to be prepared for my one day having a husband, and it not being just the two of us anymore. We communicate, and we have a level of trust that lets him know that I would never bring anyone into his life that I didn’t spend time getting to know, and determining that they warrant the opportunity to be there. It helps that he has a good relationship with his father, so he isn’t looking for a father figure to get attached to; and since my son has never known his father and I as a couple (he was very young when we split) there is no underlying resentment on his part. He just wants me to find a partner I can be happy with {insert “awww” here :)}.

So my situation is easy, thank goodness; but I know it isn’t that way for all single moms and dads.

What has been your experience? When do you think is the right time to engage your child with someone you’re dating?