As a single mom, you’ve got a lot on your plate. But that doesn’t mean you can’t add a little romance (or something more casual) into the mix if you want to. Except dating with kids…is complicated. That’s why we tapped the experts for their best advice on how to get back out there as a single parent. Whether you’re looking for a long-term relationship or just a fun night out, here’s what not to do when dating.
5 Things You Should Never Do If You're Dating as a Single Parent
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Meet the Experts
- Rachel DeAlto is a dating expert at Stir, a dating app for single parents, and the author of relatable: How to Connect with Anyone Anywhere (Even if It Scares You).
- Greg Lozano is a licensed professional counselor with Grow Therapy who specializes in couples counseling, family conflict and parenting.
1. Don’t Hide the Fact That You’re a Parent
Tell your date that you have kids from the get-go, say both experts. And we’re not talking about mentioning your 6-year-old over dessert, we mean letting them know pre-date (think: after you match online or after your friend introduces you). “Your kids are a huge part of you and will be a part of your future partner’s life too,” says DeAlto. Even if you’re looking for something casual, you should still be open about your kids since “transparency is key to making a great relationship work,” notes Lozano.
2. Don’t Rush Into It
There’s no right or wrong time to re-enter the dating world, and every person’s circumstances will be different (being single as the result of a partner’s death will bring up different feelings than a parent who’s recently divorced, for example.) Whatever the situation may be, single parents (and anyone dating, actually) should make sure they’re emotionally ready to date, says DeAlto. So before you swipe right, ask yourself: Are you emotionally available? Are you grieving? Do you still have things to work through with your ex? You don’t have to have it all figured out but take your time so that when you do start to date, you can feel confident about what you’re looking for.
3. Don’t Hold Onto Guilt
It’s totally normal to feel guilty about dating when you have kids at home, the experts reassure us. But you deserve to go out to dinner, meet interesting people and yes, maybe even find love. “Letting go of guilt when dating as a single parent starts with recognizing your worth as an individual with that you have needs and desires beyond your role as a parent,” says DeAlto. “Focus on communication, including with your kids depending on their age, to make sure they understand that dating won’t take away from them being your priority. Most of all, communicate with yourself—reminding yourself that you deserve to have fun and connection with a partner.” Which brings us to our next point…
4. Don’t Lie to Your Kids
How you talk to your kids about dating will depend on their age, but again, transparency is key. “If it is casual and they are younger, a simple ‘I’m going to spend time with a friend’ suffices, says DeAlto. With older kids, you can have a more direct conversation, although you should still keep things simple (think: “I've met someone special who makes me happy.”) Be open and transparent, and then let that create a dialogue.
And yes, for some kids, this may be hard to hear. Lozano explains that the loss of a parent (either through death or divorce) can be a “rupture of emotional safety to children,” particularly with younger kids. “Therefore, it’s helpful to always be open with them as much as possible and that even though it may be painful to know the truth, in the long run, it’s going to be better that they come to experience their parental figure as being trustworthy,” he adds.
5. Don’t Forget to Have Fun
Remember—you’re more than just a parent. You have needs, wants and desires that deserve to be paid attention to. “Dating should be fun, not a chore,” says DeAlto. “Embrace the opportunity to laugh, flirt, and enjoy new experiences.”
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