Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Dating and the Single Parent: When is it Time to Involve Your Child?

Dating and the single parent is always an interesting topic—what are the rules of engagement when children are involved? When is the right time to introduce your child into the situation?


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. When to introduce your child to someone you're dating is probably one of the most important questions that parents seek to tackle in regards to dating.

It is such 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 I've probably mentioned before, I am a single parent and am currently in a relationship. When dating, my method has always been to keep the people I see 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 have not, however, kept 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 13) to understand what it means to date or to have a boyfriend. And I’ve reached an age where marriage is 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 as well as I possibly could, and determining that they warrant the opportunity to be there. 

In my situation, it does help that my son has a pretty good relationship with his father--so he isn’t looking for a father figure to get attached to. Additionally, since he 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.

So my situation is fairly 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?

*A version of this post was originally published at Pish Posh Perfect (formerly Chic Mommy, Cool Kid).


Tiara said...

So...when did you introduce your boyfriend to your son?
How do you feel about the advice Steve Harvey gave to introduce immediately?

Personally, I disagreed with Mr. Harvey completely on that topic. I dont think he understand the the protective instinct of a mother.

Kim Jackson said...

Hi Tiara, thanks for commenting.

I introduced my boyfriend to my son when I was sure that things were becoming serious for the relationship, which was about 5 months in. That may not be the case for everyone--some might be ready sooner and some much later. I just think it's important to be very clear with your partner about where you're headed, and to know your child and what they can handle.

Re: Steve Harvey, while I appreciate that he is trying to help women who feel frustrated by relationship issues, and can't knock his hustle--I'm not really prone to take advice from him. LOL. I would agree with you that because he can never be a mother, there are some things about it that he may not quite understand. And introducing your child to every single person you date could be potentially damaging--especially because you could go on dates with several people where it fizzles out after just a few encounters. As mothers we are definitely protective, and as women we are smarter than we give ourselves credit for--as long as we follow our guts and keep our eyes open to those telling red flags.

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