Dating when you have Teenagers
Re-entering the dating game is nerve-wracking enough without having to explain it to any teenagers lurking about the place. But explain you must. Now is the time to start thinking of your children as the young adults they are. There will be awkwardness (and there may be fireworks) but persevere and there’s no reason you can’t find a harmonious balance when dating as a single parent.
Slowly but surely
All humans are adaptable, even teenagers. The secret is to introduce new things slowly, especially if those things are likely to cause frowns. The biggie is the first date. However you frame it, the fact that you want to date will surprise and possibly nauseate any self-respecting teenager.
Sit down with them and explain that you feel ready to seek a new partner, and that you want friendship and companionship just like anyone else. Be clear that you’re not seeking to distance yourself from them, or provide them with a new parent.
Invite them to ask questions, though it’s likely that this first conversation will be more of a monologue. You can expect bouts of eye-rolling and pantomime sighing, but you can be sure that they will be keenly listening to what you’re saying.
Whatever you do, don’t introduce the topic after you’ve already arranged a date. Give them time to process the information before even thinking about setting something up.
All hands on deck
Most teenagers have had their fill of adults telling them where they can go and how long they can go for. Introduce a little equality into your household by consulting them on your own dating plans.
For example, rather than announcing that you’ll be back by midnight, ask them what time they would like you to be back. Involving them in this way makes them feel part of the process rather than it being something beyond their control.
Stick to your itinerary
Hypocrites are the devils of the teenage world. Adults who say one thing and do another are given absolutely zero respect. So when you promise to get home at 11pm, you need to be home by 11pm. If you say you will take them to X, make sure that you do.
If you ever fail to live up to your word, don’t try and make things better by trying to buy back the teenager’s favour – this is likely to backfire. Instead, honestly apologise and make very sure that it never happens again.
While teenagers might seem to despise the routines of the household, they actually find them comforting. The home is their safe place, somewhere they can use as a base to experiment in the more uncontrollable wider world. It’s the parent’s job to ensure that home life is satisfyingly boring.
In practice, that means trying to arrange dates so that mealtimes and regular family activities aren’t disrupted. Most importantly, it means not making sudden changes or introducing nasty surprises.
Tell your offspring everything that you have planned and give them as much warning as possible. Account for their selective memories and repeatedly remind them when something is due to happen.
All together now
Initially keep everything dating-related away from the home. It should be more like a hobby that you go and do perhaps once a week. As the months pass, you’ll be able to gauge your offspring’s opinion on your new relationship.
If they seem OK with it, and your new partner is happy too, consider setting up a casual meeting. A quick coffee one Saturday morning is easy. If all goes well, progress from there.
How do you cope with dating when teenagers live with you? What obstacles have you come up against?
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