Originally published at: YourTango.com Photo credit: Your Tango Avoid drama and open yourself to true love!
Dating after divorce can be rough, especially when single parents have to balance their kid's lives and their own love lives.
When you are a single parent, it often feels like you have the weight of the world on your shoulders.
You may even wonder if you should add more pressure and responsibility to your life by exploring the murky waters of dating when you already have your hands full with parenting.
You've heard the horror stories of blended family drama increasing brokenness in the children’s lives. But, there’s a way to avoid this.
As a personal Matchmaker who has worked with countless single parents throughout my professional career, I coach them through this process and give them the best dating advice possible.
When your kids watch you date in a healthy way, they can learn how to build positive relationships in their own lives.
Here are the 7 ways single parents can get dating after divorce right when they want to fall in love again.
1. Date the kind of people you see as potential role models for your children
I always advise our single moms and dads to date someone who they want their (future or present) child to grow up into as adults.
Though easy to fall for the exciting playboys or the flakey party girls, avoid attaching yourself to this type of person, and let consistency in the relationship mean more to you than any fleeting feeling.
2. Behave like you would want your child to behave
Often, dating brings up a lot of excited and nervous feelings, boundary questions, and frankly the desire to throw caution to the wind.
It can feel exhilarating to enter into the dating scene after a long time but refuse to rush into a relationship and take your time.
Have fun, but also maintain your self-respect, values, discipline, and wisdom.
3. Give yourself "me" time and date time
Tyler Perry’s hilarious "me time" Madea riff aside, if you lose yourself in your children, they may fail to see the importance of self and soul care.
Be there for your children on weekends and after school, but carve out time for dating.
Single parenting means relying heavily on scheduling to get everything done.
Give yourself a weekly night out to attend a non-work related event, and hire a trusted sitter if necessary.
Block out an hour each morning for prayer time, meditation, reading, or whatever it is you want to do, even if it means waking up a bit earlier to ensure that you get those coveted moments of solo-time.
Consider planning time alone with your children in your schedule to do the activities that you’ve had on your family bucket list.
Refuse to cancel plans with your children. They may hide it, but it will hurt them when they feel like the second priority.
Be a person of your word, and chances are, they will too.
4. Only introduce them to your kids if you could seriously see yourself marrying them
Wait to introduce the kids to your love interest until you’ve made the relationship exclusive: official boyfriend or girlfriend status.
I recommend waiting 3 months before establishing this title since you want to get to know each other as much as possible before committing to each other exclusively.
Even after you have defined this relationship, you may want to wait another 3 months to really see if they will stand the test of time.
When deciding if your next boyfriend or girlfriend could be your future husband or wife, take your time getting to know them in different settings, especially when you have children.
Children get attached quite easily and too many "new" Mommies or Daddies who they meet could cause them to get disillusioned, defensive, and bitter.
5. Avoid putting your children at risk and take security precautions when dating after divorce
Unless you work with a dating service, this is an important step for single parents dating after divorce
Unless the introduction comes from a respected source, get the dating prospect’s last name, and as much information as possible about them before you let yourself catch feelings for them.
Do your own background checks. Google the person, look on mugshots.com, subscribe to an online background check company, get Facebook and social media accounts, even simply for that purpose.
At the same time, in researching someone beforehand to make sure that they pass the "serial killer test", stop yourself from getting too judgmental or picky.
While the internet, Instagram, and Facebook can supply a lot of information, it also contains false material and will always fail to show the person in their entirety.
Only through time will you discern the full story.
6. Explore topics of conversation other than your children or former spouse
Commonly, when I Date Coach a person who went on a date with a single parent, he may say that he really liked her but she sounded still angry, hung up on the ex, or talked about her children incessantly.
Before you start dating, ensure that you have found peace with the death or divorce of your former spouse and that you can open your heart to love another person.
Then, try to make your match feel like the only man/woman in the world. That was the past, this is (potentially) the future.
Frequently, when nervous on a first date after divorce, people will default to the most comfortable topics for them, and for single parents, it’s commonly their children.
While completely fine to bring them up in conjunction with a story, for instance, try writing a list of other topics that you can speak on, and look at them before your date.
This will train your brain to redirect your thoughts when on a date.
Although you love and devote much time to your children, allow yourself to explore other interests, memories, and insights on your dates.
7. Don't treat your child like a therapist, Date Coach, or confidant
Although frequently wise beyond their years, children need space from your dating life.
This is another benefit of working with a Date Coach, like us, through your dating journey.
Since children want to make you happy, if you include them in your dating life, they will try to defend you, and end up growing up too quickly.
This leads them to develop issues in their own relationships.
They try to have the strength to make up for the weakness and vulnerability that a parent shows in the dating process.
With these tools, you can start dating after divorce as a single parent successfully.
While dating can fill you with a newfound exuberance, refuse to sacrifice your soul to please someone.
Expect ups and downs because falling in love can feel like a rollercoaster.
Ensure that you have the proper support system in place, rather than your children, before you begin.
Most importantly, listen to the still, small voice inside, which will guide you through the most challenging of dating experiences.
Though a new and confusing era for dating, a rose, is a rose, is a rose, and red flags are always red flags.
You can still guard your heart, date with purpose, and get on that train track to meet the love of your life.