Dating in the digital age has its up and downs for everyone, but dating with kids adds can add a whole new layer of things to consider.
Parenting can be full of ups and downs and looking for a new relationship on top of what seems like an endless to-do list can seem like an uphill battle. While wading through the endless amount of profiles available on dating apps or attending speed dating events can be a lot — it’s also an opportunity for you to first reconnect with yourself and then potentially find a new partner in life.
If you’re a single parent whose ready to look for love again, we applaud you for prioritizing your own happiness (which is not always the easiest thing to do as a parent). This piece is meant to provide real-world insights to what you have to think about when dating with kids and how you can protect yourself and your children while still having fun and enjoying the process.
It’s important to ask yourself and maybe a few other folks around you that you trust a few questions before you dive back in to the dating pool. These questions are designed to help you think through what you want and how you’ll go about the process of dating someone new.
First, you should figure out what you’re looking for. You don’t need a long checklist of specific qualities and characteristics, but at a minimum, you should know what type of connection you’re looking for. Do you want a serious relationship? Or a casual fling?
If you’re looking for something long-term, then you should consider your dealbreakers, aka things that just won’t work for you in a relationship. These could be things like age, distance, whether or not the other person has their own kids, etc. Knowing what’s an automatic no-go for you will help you avoid wasting any time on dates that aren’t a good match. You should also be aware of early dating red flags to look out for as they can be hard to spot if you don’t know what to look for.
Lastly, it’s important to have the support of those around you as you start dating again. If you’re in a healthy co-parenting situation, you should look at having a mature conversation with your co-parent to let them know that you’re planning on dating new people. They’ll likely have a few questions, and that’s fair, but trying to hide your new dating life from the mother/father of your child/ren could end up creating issues down the line so we recommend addressing it head on if you feel it is safe.
If you’re a single mom or single dad looking for a new relationship, you certainly aren’t alone.
There are nearly 14 million single parents in the US today, and many of them are actively dating. In fact, there’s so many single parents looking for love that Match Group recently launched a dating app specifically for single parents and heybaby is another great dating app option for people who have or want children.
Speaking of dating apps, these will probably be your best bet for finding love in most places. It’s an easy way to not have to commit too much time away from your family when first jumping back into the dating pool. Even if you don’t end up meeting up with anyone or even chatting with folks on the app, it can be a good exercise to create a profile and just see what’s out there. Here are some great tips to write a good dating app bio.
One of the most important things when dating with kids is safety - and it comes in play in ways you might not even realize. For example, be careful about what’s in the background of your dating app profile photos as it could reveal their ages and other personal information.
There are about a million and one dating apps you can choose from and we recommend reading some reviews to see which one fits your vibe. There are dating apps for the type of relationship you’re looking for (casual vs. serious), dating apps that lean towards different generations (like gen z vs. baby boomers), and even based on different tastes and interests.
Did you know Garbo is partnered with Stir? All Stir users get 2 free Garbo background checks (or 4 if you’re a paid member) to help you date even safer! Visit the Stir safety center for more information.
Another good way to meet new people is to let your close friends know you’re dating again and see if they have anyone in mind that they think might make a good match for you. Being set up by a mutual friend has pros and cons, but on the positive side, you get some peace of mind knowing this is a person your friend trusts, and it gets you right to the point of the first date without all of the back and forth that usually goes on on dating apps.
Luckily, telling someone you have kids isn’t nearly as stressful as it used to be since most dating apps nowadays have a section where you can specify whether you have kids, want kids, or don’t want kids right on your profile.
If you don’t meet them on an app, we recommend addressing this as you feel comfortable and safe. You should withhold information about your children, regardless of their age, to protect them until you get to know this person better.
Every healthy relationship starts with honesty and while you shouldn’t feel pressured to open every conversation with your parental status, being a parent is a huge part of who you are and hiding that information won’t allow your date to get to know the real you.
Side note: if you’re just looking for casual flings, then it might not be necessary to mention that you’re a parent—totally up to you in this case.
The golden question: how do you balance work life, family life and dating life?
Let’s be honest — juggling taking care of children, spending time with family and friends, a full-time job (whether that be in an office or as a stay at home parent), and starting to date again is not an easy feat.
But pretty much any parenting expert will tell you it’s essential to make time for yourself. Dating can be a form of self-care and it gives you a chance to get out and have some fun. Affection and intimacy are incredible for your mental health as well, so think of making time for your love life as something that will ultimately make you a happier, healthier parent.
Here’s a few tips to make managing parenting and dating a bit easier:
Introducing your new partner to your children is a serious relationship milestone and it’s a very personal choice. There’s no perfect amount of time to wait, but there’s a few things that should be considered and handled with respect.
If there’s a co-parent involved be sure you understand how they feel about you introducing your new partner to the kids. It’s important to make sure you’re both on the same page so that no one feels blindsided.
Making this call can also depend on whether you have very young children who won’t understand what it means for their parent to have a new partner versus having older children. Having an age approrpiate conversation about your dating life can also help open up a conversation about healthy relationships in general.
Kids that are old enough to understand the concept of their parent being in a new long term relationship will probably have a lot questions and may rush to conclusions or have complicated feelings about this new person. This is all very normal and you should come prepared with answers to questions you think they might ask.
A parent having a new partner can have serious implications on their kids’ lives, especially if you foresee this person being involved as a stepparent one day, so handle this first introduction with care. And it’s not just about the first introduction — be sure to continue checking in with your children as a new partner gets more involved with your family’s life.
It goes without saying that as a parent the safety of your family is your number one priority.
When you’re dating with kids, you have to consider how a new partner could not only impact your safety and well-being, but that of your children as well. Having a new partner can also have implications on other friendships, relationships with your family, and even your job - so it' can understandably feel like a serious step to start really allowing this person into your life.
That’s why it’s super important to understand green flags of a healthy relationship (especially if the relationship with your children’s other parent wasn’t the healthiest). You want to go into dating with a positive mindset and excitement - so we suggest starting with reviewing green flags first.
But... equally important is being able to identify those red flags early on. Some red flags are easier to spot than others so we highly suggest reading up on what red flags can look like (and understanding what your personal boundaries are) and even taking our red flag quiz.
If you’re new to online dating or you’re not familiar with romance scammers, you should also know the signs of these scams, so you can avoid anyone with malicious intentions.
Now when it comes time to meet a date in person, here’s a few things you should do to keep yourself safe:
Now that we’ve covered all the essentials for dating with kids, we’ll leave you with one last piece of advice: take things at your own pace. You should not feel pressured to find the perfect new relationship right away—it will take some trial and error, but as you know, a good relationship is worth the wait.