Up to date - Dating and kids
The dating game can be hard enough for the average singleton to play, but if you're a single parent there are other issues to consider in the search for a new partner, writes Karina Corbett
There can be no doubt that being a single parent often makes finding a new partner a little more difficult.
You are seen to be carrying more baggage than the average childless, single person, and there are many men and women who are reluctant to even consider going out with someone who already has a child or children of their own.
Even so, there are plenty of single parents out there who want to date and successfully start new relationships. It's just that with things like time and other concerns getting in the way, it not quite the same experience as dating before their child was born.
Of course, whether you are a parent or not, there are more ways then ever now to help you find love. From the pub to the club, the local speed-dating venue to the internet, these days the choice is seemingly endless.
Grainne Barry started a dating site for single parents – www. SingleParents. ie – in 2006 before relaunching it last year.
" We set up SingleParents. ie as we saw the growing number of single parents on our main dating site Anotherfriend. com, and also due to feedback from our customers who wanted a dedicated site where they could be open about their status rather than have to decide on what was the best moment to reveal that they were a single parent who was dating again," she explains. " The site is growing every month, with growth of 22pc in the last three months alone."
Barry maintains that the single-parent population is a growing segment of the Irish demographic – indeed the number of lone-parent families in Ireland rose 23pc from 2002 to 2006.
So what advice would she dispense to any single parent out there who may be looking to re-enter the dating scene?
" Being a single parent brings great clarity to dating as you want to ensure you get it right because you are considering any possible impact on your kids," she replies. " This means most people are more honest about what will work for them when starting to date or embracing a new relationship.
" Some tips I would give to single parents who are entering a new relationship is to involve their kids in some of the 'dates' so that you can see the possible relationship with your children and new partner. It may not sound very romantic but it is a key consideration to see how they fi t in with your family life.
" In addition, it is important to set the boundaries very clear and early in a new relationship so that it doesn't take over your life and your children become resentful."
One Family is a national organisation for oneparent families in Ireland. Ger Kelly, parenting and childcare co-ordinator, has a wealth of advice for single parents who want to introduce a new partner to their children.
"As part of meeting your needs as an adult it is important that you fi nd the opportunity to socialise and meet new people," she says. " When forming a new relationship it is important to take time out for yourself. There is no need to introduce your child to every person you meet or date. You must remember by doing this you are also forming new relationships for your child, which need a lot of work and children can find it diffi cult and upsetting if new adults come and go from their life."
That said, if this new relationship is looking like it’s going to be a lasting one, there does come a time when your child will need to meet the person.
“Before introducing your child you need to talk with your new partner and establish how they feel about children and what role they feel comfortable with,” advises Kelly. “You do not need to think long term, just take it one day at a time because your new partner will need time to adjust to your child just as your child will need time to adjust to them.”
If an introduction is to be made, Kelly suggests planning it well in advance. “Agree with your children what they would like to do on the first meeting. Often a fun activity is good.”
And what about when it comes to the point where your new partner is spending the night? “When it gets to the stage that your new partner is staying over, then for younger children you can talk about it as a sleepover – many young children are familiar with this concept from friendships at school,” explains Kelly.
“Plan how the day will go and where your partner will sleep. Create the ground rules with both parties. With older teenage children you need to be careful as you will be aware that you are a role model for them.”
Barry believes that there is no actual protocol when it comes to a new partner staying the night.
“It all depends on the age of the children and any possible impact of a relationship with a new partner. Each situation is individual and this decision can only be made by the single mum or dad.”
Kelly says it’s worth remembering that with a new relationship you are all in this together. “Everyone needs to play a part if it is to work. Your child can really benefi t from seeing you in a relationship that is a healthy and respectful one, as they need to see how adults can have lasting and loving relationships as well.”
Mother & Babies