Having a child and being single often means that you have to put off certain social activities you once enjoyed on a regular basis. Dating is usually at the top of that list.

However, this does not mean that you are destined to be single forever.  Even knowing that, the idea of getting back out there may seem daunting. You may find yourself concerned about which dating websites are the best, or if you should considered dating someone from your office. Maybe you’re thinking about recycling an old flame. But the biggest question is, how will your decision to start dating impact your child?

Well, there are some simple steps you can take to minimize the impact your dating life has on your child.

First, remember that YOU are dating, not your child. This means that you need to protect them from the emotional ups and downs often associated with dating.  Stop and think about this. You take a chance to meet someone, take time to get to know them, and maybe it works for a while and maybe it doesn’t. It is possible to live through that cycle several times before you make a long-term connection with the right person for you.  That scenario would be very stressful for a child. They may get attached to someone you have no intentions seeing on a regular basis. Or they might act out negatively to express feelings of anger and confusion about your decision to date.

Second, develop and maintain parent/child time that is not impacted by dating. You and your child should have quality time to spend together, that does not get interrupted or overshadowed by plans with someone you are dating. Maintaining your children as your top priority will ensure that they continue to feel connected and supported by you. If someone you are dating has a problem with this or believes that they should be included in parent/child activates before you are ready to take that step, they might not be the right person for you and your family.

Third, set time aside for yourself. Being a single parent can be very stressful and overwhelming. If you establish a routine that allows you private/downtime on a weekly basis, you can incorporate dating into that time without raising your child’s concerns about a new or always changing routine.  I understand that downtime may not always be possible as a single parent, but if you can place this in your schedule, it would be worth it, even if you’re not currently dating.

Last, remember you are the adult in the relationship. You should not feel compelled to share everything with your child. They are your child and not your friend. If you want someone to chat with about your dating adventures, call your college roommate, next door neighbor or write about it in a journal.  You need your privacy and your child does not need to know everything you do and who you socialize with.

Dr. Janella Street has been working with individuals, couples and children involved in the family court system since 2006. She is a Child Custody Evaluator, Parenting Coordinator, Private Child Custody Mediator, Expert Witness for Child Custody related matters and Parenting Coach. Dr. Street specializes in working with never-married co-parents. She earned her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from the California School of Professional Psychology. She has worked as a Forensic Psychologist for the State of California and Child Custody Recommending Counselor for Solano and Alameda Counties. She is a member of the Association of Family and Conciliation Courts. Currently Dr. Street maintains a private practice in Berkeley, CA.