Navigating the world of dating can be overwhelming and scary, but adding a toddler to the mix makes it even more so. Not only are you getting to know a potential partner, but you have to decide when to introduce your date to your toddler. There aren't any hard and fast rules about entering the dating game with a toddler on board, but being prepared for the obstacles can help you and your toddler get through them intact.
You've met someone new and are dating each other, but you probably aren't ready to introduce your new partner to your toddler. Separating from your toddler's other parent can make your child clingy and upset, so it's important to take things slowly when you start dating again, according to Alice Sterling Honig, a professor emerita of child development at Syracuse University, on the "Scholastic" website. Spend time with your new boyfriend when your toddler is at his other parent's house or with a sitter. This allows you to get to know each other and keeps your toddler from becoming upset by seeing you with someone else. Tell your toddler you're spending time with a friend, if that makes him feel better about you leaving him behind for a date.
Your Toddler's Point of View
Even though a toddler is probably too young to understand all the dynamics of a grown-up and romantic relationship, she probably knows that a separation means her parents aren't together anymore. This can make a toddler possessive, and she may have a hard time sharing you with someone else, Sterling Honig notes. Even if she doesn't realize you're dating again, knowing that you are going out without her can be upsetting. You might notice your toddler regressing to earlier behaviors, such as potty accidents, and she may want to be held more often than usual. She may be cranky and not want to be away from you at all.
It can be very hard for a toddler to form an attachment to a new person, only to lose him if you break up. For this reason, HealthyChildren.org, published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests waiting to introduce your toddler to this new person until you're sure that the relationship is serious. Once you feel it's appropriate, make introductions slowly. Tell your toddler that your date is a friend and let him set the pace for playing, talking or spending time together. Your toddler might warm up quickly, or it might take him awhile to accept this new person. Don't force anything because if you want the relationship to last, a bond between your date and your toddler is vital.
Once you've introduced your new partner to your toddler and they form a relationship, your child might get upset if you want to have a date without kids. It's fine to leave her behind for some dates, but taking her along sometimes is good, too. It gives you a chance to form a unit, which is especially important if you plan to get married and start a new family. Take your toddler on a picnic, go play on the playground, see a kid-friendly movie or spend an afternoon playing at home. This gives your toddler and your partner a chance to build a relationship and lets you spend time with both of them.
Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.