Written by: Toni Foot
As a single parent it can be difficult to make time to meet your own needs and relationships can seem like a distant memory. However, it is important to remember that if you are happy as an individual then you will almost certainly be a better parent to your children. Of course happiness does not always come in the shape of a partner, nor does embarking on a new relationship come without challenges.Love me love my child applies to all new relationships and is the most important factor on meeting a new partner.
Finding a new relationship
It can be difficult to find time to socialize as a single parent, especially if you don’t have family or friends who can babysit for you. However, socializing is probably the best way to find that someone special – especially when you get to meet new people through your existing friends. An adult night out can be a great way to relax and enjoy grown-up conversation, but so can a picnic with some other families and friends (your children will love this too).
If you don’t have many friends or they all seem to be married and settled, then why not try joining your local Gingerbread group? Gingerbread is a great way to meet other single parents, and by extension, meet lots of new people through these new friends. Who knows who you may come across whilst you enjoy socializing with other people in similar situations as well as having fun with your children? Find your local group here: http://www.gingerbread.org.uk
Starting a new relationship
A new relationship can be an exciting adventure, so make sure you enjoy every minute of those early days! Aside from the romance, a new relationship can bring challenges for single parents, especially if you have been alone for a while or have had difficult relationships in the past. It is important to try to establish a relationship carefully when children are involved. Although you should be honest about your children from the start, think carefully about when and how you introduce your new partner to your children. Take time to get to know them first, making sure you are compatible as a couple before involving your children too much. After all, going through the dating process can be stressful for children when things don’t work out, so there is no need for them to meet potential partners on your first date! Also, remember that children are not easily fooled: just calling a new partner a ‘friend’ will not be enough to stop them suspecting something about your relationship.
What if my children and partner don’t get on?
Some children will be as excited by a new relationship as you are, while others will find new partners difficult to accept, regardless of who they are. Your first priority should always be to your children so make sure you consider how well your new partner will fit into your family before things get too serious. If it is clear that your partner is not happy about becoming a parent figure to your children then you should think carefully about continuing the relationship. Even if you find a perfect partner for yourself, if they don’t want to be part of your children’s lives then the relationship is doomed from the start and will cause unnecessary stress for your children. However, a new partner who struggles to adapt to having a ready-made family but is willing to try to work things out is worth a shot – even if they need lots of help from you to learn about being a parent.
Talk to your child
There are many reasons why a child may not like a new partner and it is up to you to try to resolve these issues. You may find that there are little things that your child is worried about and simply talking about it can make them feel much better and therefore accepting of your new relationship.
Talk to your child about their feelings and make sure you involve them in decisions that will have an impact on them. Whilst it is important that you remain in charge of your family and don’t let your children rule your life, they are entitled to their feelings and opinions and you need to respect that in the decisions you make. Avoid surprising them with big changes (like moving house or having a partner join in activities previously enjoyed by you and your children alone), rather talk to them in advance, giving them time to adjust. Letting them have control of some things (such as decoration or choice of their new room, holiday destinations or choosing family activities) can help them to feel like they are involved and have some influence over their lives.
Most importantly, even if your children are happy to have your new partner in their lives, make sure you take time to be with your children alone too. They have been used to your undivided attention and sharing you will be tough, even if they like your new relationship. Spending quality time with them alone will help them to understand they are still your most important people.