by Arlene Vasquez, CMM – As published in Main Street Magazine, May 2014

Dating can be stressful for many people, add being a single parent to the equation, and it can be that much harder. After a divorce single parents need time to get used to their new routine, such as child-custody arrangements and spending quality time with their children, while juggling many other things. Moreover, while the courts may dictate a custody arrangement, all too often one parent may choose to consistently deviate from the plan, making it challenging for the other to plan their time. Still, when enough time has passed and you are ready to embark on your dating journey, it’s important to gather your resources of family, friends and babysitters in order to carve out the time and energy for this process.

Parent_Child_0First, there are many ways to meet new potential dates. You may want to try online dating, meet ups, single parent groups or new activities, such as dance lessons. It’s at events like these that you can meet someone with common interests. However, before you go on that first date, you need to do a few things. I suggest a makeover—from the inside out!

This means, if you need professional help to move past your divorce, your ex or any other issue that would spill into a new relationship, don’t be afraid to get it. Next, work with a dating coach who can bring you up to date on the new dating landscape while reviewing with you the dos and don’ts of dating.

An image consultant will help you assess and recommend changes to your wardrobe, hairstyle, make-up, etc. They may even recommend having your teeth whitened. This may all sound superficial, but the fact is, looking your best has a direct correlation to feeling good about yourself, which makes for great first impressions.

When it comes to your kids, if they’re of an age where they can understand, let them know what you’re doing. Tell them you’re looking for a friend to have fun with. Reassure them of your love for them and that even when you’re out, they’re always in your heart and your thoughts.

Then, be sure to make appropriate childcare arrangements for peace of mind, so that you don’t feel guilty about going out and having a good time.

Children of any age can get attached to any partner you choose, so it’s important to avoid having a revolving door of men or women around your children. Only introduce someone to your kids when you feel there is potential for a long-term relationship, and after you’ve vetted them enough to know it’s safe to have them around your kids.

Dating is about getting to know each other, keeping things light and having fun. The key to balance when dating as a single parent is to always be present. When you’re with your children, be with your children. And, when you’re on a date, be with your date.