What are the rules of dating for parents?
Some 14 million Americans are single moms or dads. (Most typical: a divorced mom over 40.) If you're an on-your-own parent, what should you do?
Maybe you never want to go out with anyone again. But the odds are you would like to follow in the footsteps of Paul Newman, Tom Hanks and Sting. All three had kids with their first wives before those marriages ended in divorce. But the second walks down the aisle for these three fathers led to happily-ever-after long marriages.
Some tips on how to date as a single parent:
Don't introduce the kids to every beau. "They shouldn't expose children to people they're dating unless it looks like it's going to be a sustained, long-term relationship," says Dr. Daniel Levy, a developmental pediatrician who sits on the American Academy of Pediatrics' committee on communications and media. "There has to be a sense that there's going to be some continuity." Otherwise, if you break up, "that's just another trauma for the kid," says Levy.
Remember that a new beau is not replacing a child's other parent. "Nothing takes the place of the other parent who's not present," says Levy. "That should be made clear."
Be up front with your kids. "You can say to the child, 'You're going to have some feelings about this person, and it's going to be a little hard for you," says Levy. "The discussion should include the significant other."
Consider the circumstances around a marital breakup. Not all single parents go through bitter divorces. But some do. "If, in the most extreme circumstances, there's an abusive relationship, and there were threats made or alcoholism or drug use or some sort of compulsive behavior, then the child may already know why it didn't work out," says Levy. "The parent who's not present may have been the cause of a lot of pain they're now separated from. The kids may appreciate that things are more peaceful. The person mom or dad has now chosen is more stable."
Think about (wisely) using online dating sites. They're for nice, smart, good-looking, normal midlifers - not just losers or psychopaths. "I think it's a sensible and efficient way to go about looking for a good match," says Nashua, N.H., psychologist Carl Hindy, co-author of If This Is Love, Why Do I Feel So Insecure? Which site you use is up to you. Match.com is the biggie for everyone, not just for dating for parents. Free services: OK Cupid, Mingle2, and Plenty of Fish (POF). Finally, the slew of single-parent sites include singleparentdate, singleparentsmingle, singleparentmatch, and datingforparents.
For stories about celebrity relationships, read: