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When Do I Tell My Daughter That I'm Dating?

by Shara JJ Cooper

Dating is just one of many challenges of being a single parent. You need, and probably crave, some adult conversation and interaction. But that doesn't mean your child needs to be in the know on every detail. What you tell your daughter about your dating life depends on how serious you are, her age and how much your daughter is ready to handle. All children should be told that you are dating, according to Carl E. Pickhardt, author of "Everything Parent's Guide to Children and Divorce." It's just a matter of determining when and how much they need to know.

Social Dating

Children should be aware that their parents are dating socially, according to Pickhardt. This is casual dating that grown-ups do so they can be with other adults. Your child will be aware that you go out. She'll either be with a sitter or with her other parent, so she'll know something is up. It's important that she has this knowledge so she doesn't feel that something secretive is going on behind her back. Don't involve your child with anyone you are only casually -- or socially -- dating. Your child might become attached, which can complicate any breakup.

Serious Relationships

If a relationship turns serious, talk to your child about the person you are dating. Tell your child that you care about this individual and that you will be seeing him regularly. This is a person who might become a regular part of your lives and even move in with you. Handle it carefully and keep your child in the loop. If your child discovers your "secret," she might feel a sense of betrayal. She might also be holding out hope that you will get back together with her other parent, according to M. Gary Neuman, author of "Helping Your Kids Cope with Divorce the Sandcastles Way."

Teenagers

If you start dating when your child is a teenager, your teen might have strong feelings. Many teens will feel uncomfortable because you are acting like she is -- dating and socializing, according to Pickhardt. It might embarrass her or she might worry about your safety and well-being. Talk to your teen about her concerns. Let her know that you respect her feelings and want her to be comfortable with the decisions you are making.

Young Children

The younger the child is, the less she will understand about dating. She won't understand that the people involved in a casual relationship are not going to be around forever. Children who don't have two parents in their life might latch onto another parental figure. Be vigilant about who you introduce into their lives. Reassure your child that this doesn't change the relationship that you have with her. She might worry that you are spreading your self too thin and she will be forgotten. This concern deepens if the relationship because serious. She might feel the new partner is trying to take attention from her or replace her other parent, according to an article published by the California State University Northridge.

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