Emily Waddell, 07.04.2018

The ultimate guide to dating with kids

Let’s be honest. For most single moms and single dads, starting to date again is usually last on a long list of things ‘to-do’ (just after cleaning the entire house, juggling a career and attempting to see friends and relatives on a regular basis). When you have kids, dating can often be pushed to the back of the line.

Why dating with kids is difficult

Why is dating with kids such a tricky problem? In Canada, around 15% of all familial households are headed by a single parent, meaning that there are millions of singles who are raising kids in this country.1 Interestingly, single moms make up about 78% of these households (although the percentage of single dads is rising faster).2 There are two conclusions we can draw from these statistics:

  1. There are a lot of people raising children on their own

  2. The majority of them are women, with men making up a smaller (but growing) proportion

So, wouldn’t that mean that single parent dating is incredibly common? Something that happens almost effortlessly if you find yourself at the end of a relationship, or after a divorce? Unfortunately, most women - and some men - find themselves too busy to date.

Another factor is the guilt they sometimes feel pursuing their own happiness. This is a big problem because a parent’s happiness is crucial to their own well-being as well as their kids! Single moms and dads also assume that nobody without kids would want to date a single parent with kids. Fortunately, a study conducted by EliteSingles proved this is an assumption and not true in the majority of cases.

In fact, more than 90% of EliteSingles members would happily date a single parent

Feel inspired to start dating again? Then this is the place to start. We’ve put together the ultimate guide to dating with kids, so single parents all over Canada can start investing in their future happiness, as well as that of their kids.

How do you know when you’re reading to start dating?

Making the transition from full-time parent to thinking about yourself as an individual is a stretch for most parents. Having gotten used to being the center of the world for your kids, you can start forgetting that you’re a person with wants and needs rather than just a cleaner, chef, and 24/7 nurse.

Consider why you want to start dating again. There is no ‘right time’ to start dating again but think about what’s motivating you to find someone new at this moment. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or you’re just dying to get out of the house - maybe you’re not hankering for a date, you’re hankering for some help. Enlist some family members to help with looking after your kids and have a night on the town with some friends. Asking a new partner to do some emotional heavy lifting early on in a relationship is unrealistic and may cause you to settle for just about anybody so you can have a breather.

If you’re genuinely missing sharing experiences with another person, rather than just feeling mommy/daddy cabin fever, then give yourself permission to start dating again.

Feel the guilt and do it anyway

As previously mentioned, guilt is a huge factor for single parents when they consider dating again. Questions ranging from spending money, time or worrying about being judged by other people are common.

People who are dating with kids have to remember that their mental health, well-being and happiness are very important. If you feel trapped or unhappy the people it will affect, intentionally or not, will be your children. Your happiness is paramount to theirs. When in doubt remember the self-care ‘Oxygen Mask Principle’. If you’ve ever flown a plane you’ll remember the instructions ‘put your own mask on, before putting on anyone else's’ this principle encapsulates why your own happiness is important. You can’t help anyone else unless you help yourself first.

Single woman reading to her kids

Time, Time, Time - Find it, take it, don’t waste it

So, you’ve decided to get back into dating, you’re making an intelligent commitment to the furtherment of your emotional maturity and an investment in your future. Uh, so where exactly do you find the time?

The majority of single parents work full time, maintaining a delicate balancing act between daycare, babysitters, family, friends and their career. Finding time to meet people can seem like asking the impossible. However, thanks to the advent of online dating, meeting people can now take no time at all!

Online dating means that you can meet new people without sacrificing precious time going to typically fruitless dating events or singles nights. Another big bonus is that usually, you can say you have children on your dating profile - on EliteSingles you can even specify that you’d like to meet another single parent or you’d like like to meet someone who is childless. This negates any awkward first date conversation where you have to bring up that you have kids.

Take the time to meet a lot of different types of people. When you get back into dating it can be easy to slip into old habits and start dating the same type of people. Explore your options and take your time, but don’t waste it. As someone who's dating with kids, your time is precious, if someone constantly cancels or seems reticent to commit to plans then move onto your next match.

How to meet people - offline and online

Offline dating is tough nowadays. Depending on where you live, social events may end up being a small collection of people you’ve known all your life. Contrastingly, if you live in a big city then people might respond to you in shock and horror if you tried to strike up a conversation with them on the street.

Of course, there are singles events, parental get-togethers and people still flirt in bars - that’s never going to go out of fashion. But, if you’re looking for a serious relationship then online dating is your best bet. It allows you a certain control that you don’t have in real life and it’s one of the best tools if you’re thinking about dating with kids. You can choose all the criteria you want a potential partner to have. With EliteSingles, you’ll complete a comprehensive personality test that will help us match you to people who share your goals, values and desires. If apps are more your style then check out our review of the best dating apps available.

One piece of advice if you’re dating with kids and you’re going to try out online dating - don’t have your main picture as you and your child, or just your child! So many single parents are exceptionally proud of their children, as they should be. However, on a dating website, it’s an not the norm and tends to put people off. You’re an individual, think about what kind of person you want to present to the dating world - check out our tips to make your profile pop here.

Single dad balancing his son on his shoulders

How much should you share with your date and your kids?

So, you’ve landed a date, it’s going well, they know you have kids but how much should you share?

On the first few dates, try and keep kid chat to a minimum. While it's great to let them know that they are dating a single mom or dating a single dad, your dateis there to get to know you - not your kids. So, while your children are a package deal that comes with you, spending the whole evening bringing out baby pictures is a no-no. Not every relationship you have will lead to a serious, long-term relationship. So, focus on having fun as yourself first.

After a few dates, dating with kids becomes a bit more tricky due to the introduction of ‘sleepovers’ (for lack of a better word). If you’re not sure where a relationship is going then it’s best to have the children out of the house if somebody stays the night. This allows both of you to relax and there are no awkward scenarios that could arise. Sending your kids out of the house may sound drastic but it’s also protection for your kids. Regardless of whether you have tiny toddlers or surly teenagers, introducing a partner should be done delicately and only if you think the relationship is destined somewhere long-term.

Once a few months have passed, although there is no perfect time frame for dating with kids, start thinking about how this person fits into your family’s lives. Make it clear to your new partner that you are a package deal and if they are serious about maintaining the relationship it means they have to accept a few other people too. Keep in mind that your children will bond with this new person. So waiting until you are both committed to the relationship is the best way to protect them should it all end rather abruptly.

It’s a cliché, but honesty is the best policy - with your kids and your partner. When you’re dating with kids it can be easy to forget that this decision is about your happiness. Tell your children that this person makes you happy and explain how this person will feature in their lives. Similarly, tell your partner about your children and how they might react to the situation. By being honest, it's less likely to be a major transition for everybody involved..

Ensure your happiness

Remember, this is about you going out and getting something you feel is missing. Your wellbeing is linked to your children and single parents are singularly fantastic at feeling guilty that they aren’t caring for their children correctly. Why? Because it’s hard being the sole caregiver, whether you’re a single mom or dad, looking after children on your own is difficult. So let yourself have fun and explore the dating world online, meet new people, have new experiences and find long-lasting love.

EliteSingles editorial, April 2018