Fatherhood isn’t easy, especially when you are a single dad. Most guys know all the general dating tips for men. But when you are a single dad you have to keep the kids in mind. Schedules can be crazy, especially if you have joint custody. Many dads also wonder how to balance the interests of their children, and avoid freaking them out while still enjoying a healthy love life. Of course everyone deserves the right to date and find someone and there are ways to do it while still being a spectacular dad. Here are some ways and things to do, and things to keep in mind while dating as a single dad. Remember that you don’t have to rush into the dating scene. Instead, take small steps and get acclimated to it, particularly if you’ve been out of the game awhile and aren’t feeling so confident. Widowers often have the most difficult time knowing when the right time to get back out there is. In this situation but also after a divorce everyone seems to have advice for when the particular right time to get back out there is. But really it’s all up to you, how you feel and when you feel comfortable making that step. Some divorced dads feel dating guilt because the time with their children is so limited. One good indicator if you are ready to date or not is whether or not you want to badmouth your ex-wife, or talk about your previous relationship all night instead of focusing on yourself and your date.
Have a conversation with your children about it if you are ready to date again. Address any issues. Some children secretly harbor the feeling that perhaps their parents will get back together. Often a dad or mom getting back into the dating scene makes it difficult for them as it deflates their fantasy. Have a long talk about it. Let them know that they are your number one priority and they will always have the biggest piece of your heart. That said, as much as spending time with family and friends is fulfilling, you desire friends you can go out to dinner with, go see a show with or go to the movies with. Of course consider the age of the children and tailor your message so that they understand it completely. Make sure you select the proper person or people to date. Let them know upfront that you are a dad and that your children automatically come first. Ask Mr. Dad columnist Armin Brott says, “You never know when there will be an emergency, when you’ll have to leave a date or cancel—and that might make her jealous.” Oftentimes, single dads want to date someone with kids. But single moms aren’t necessarily looking for a man with children. Though you may think a single mom would be more understanding, supportive and perhaps better with the children, a childless woman may be great with the kids as her attention will be solely focused on them, and you rather than her own.
You don’t have to tell your children every detail about the person you are dating. Don’t tell them too much. Ask the children if they’d like to meet them. If they say no, respect their decision but let them know that if you two are getting serious it would probably be a good idea. They should be open to that. Don’t introduce the children to a series of people you are dating or one right after another. It will make them jaded about dating in their own life and may hurt their future relationships. Don’t leave the kids with a sitter or drop them off at your parents to go on a date. It sends the message that the date is more important than the children. You don’t want the kids feeling that way. Be careful what you share with your children. Don’t tell them the details of your dating life even if they are teens. Wait until you are serious about someone special before introducing them. Don’t have a sleep over with the children around unless you and your date are serious. Take a look and see if your ex-spouse is dating. If she isn’t watch out as former spouses try and discredit new lovers in front of the children. This puts the kids in an awful position. They have their loyalties split between mom and dad. Further, they may not want to bond with your new girlfriend or fiancée for fear that they are betraying their mother. Talk to your former spouse about it if this happens. When it’s time to meet someone you are serious about make it a relaxed meeting in a quiet and comfortable place. Never assume your kids don’t get it. Even young children get when dad is dating again. Be honest with them and they’ll be understanding, and will in the end want you to be happy. For more, read Dating for Dads by Ellie Slott Fisher.