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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dating and the Single Parent

Parents who find themselves suddenly single have a difficult time when it comes to dating. Do you tell your kids about the new date, because you want them to become accustomed to Mommy or Daddy dating? Or do you keep the boyfriend or girlfriend out of sight for a while because you don't want your children to become attached?

One way single parents work around the dilemma is to tell the kids they have a new "friend." Friends are perfectly fine as long as you're not hugging and kissing them in front of the kids.

Kids have an innate sense of how their parents feel in any given situation and they react to new people in their lives in different ways.

Boys, for instance – in homes where the mother is the single parent – become overly protective of their mothers. My son used to plop down in the middle of my boyfriend and me and always somehow let the guy know that HE – MY SON – was the man in the house.

Daughters with a single parent dad react protectively as well. They want to make sure Daddy's new girlfriend is treating him well.

What kids DON'T want is a replacement for their missing parent, and if the boyfriend or girlfriend ACTS like he or she is trying to fill in for Mom or Dad, children will rebel.

But sometimes what transpires from new "friends" entering your life, is a situation like the following:

I had just met a salesman who came to my door. Though I told him repeatedly that I would NOT purchase anything he was selling, he won me over because he was so insistent and charming, I invited him inside, not knowing that we might end up dating. We talked about everything from food to God.

The whole time we were talking, my son was glaring at the guy, and one of my daughters was recording everything we said.

When the guy left, my son said, "He is NOT going to be your new boyfriend, is he?" And my daughter chimed in with, "Well, first you were talking about steaks, and then you were talking about refrigerators, and before I knew it, you were talking about God." She then repeated word for word much of our conversation.

They let me know that though I thought they were immersed in their own thoughts and projects, they were paying attention to every word we spoke.

The same holds true for new "friends" who enter your life. You may think your children are not paying attention, but you will be surprised to learn that they have absorbed every word, every nuance, and every gesture you made while in the presence of your boyfriend/girlfriend and your children.

The best advice I can give is to give the relationship a minimum of six months before you introduce your new friend to your children. If the relationship becomes serious and you decide to marry, don't keep your children in the dark. They already know something is happening. Be truthful. Children can read lies as well as any physiognomist or phrenologist can (watch the television show, Lie To Me to find out what a physiognomist or phrenologist is, if you don't already know.

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