Single-parent land mine—helping single parents navigate the dating scene



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As a children’s minister or church leader, you may be wondering why you would need to understand the single-parent land mine of dating. I mean, is this topic one that is greatly going to affect your ministry? The answer is a loud YES! And you want to know why it can affect your ministry? Because normally when a single parent starts dating, it greatly affects the kids in your ministry, many times in a negative way.

First of all, understand that I’m not against single parents dating. I was a single parent for years and am now happily married. However, dating for some of them can become a land mine that explodes and causes devastation to all those around.

Reasons for you to get involved

It might help you to understand a couple of important reasons single parents who are dating need your attention.

  • Your involvement (or lack of involvement) in the single parent’s life could change your relationship with that person. Say nothing, and the single parent may think you don’t care. Overreach and meddle, and the single parent may push back and avoid you (and the church). Either misstep could affect the parent bringing the kids to your church.
  • The dating relationship between the two adults may very well change the relationship the kids have with the parent. As mommy or daddy starts giving more attention this new friend, children many times feel left out. They start acting out because of the lack of attention from their parent. They may wonder if their single parent is going to marry this new person and leave them behind. Your group/class may pay a high price for this change in relationship, because many children will feel hurt and left out, and that affects their behavior in a group situation.

Why single parents think they need to start dating

You should know that single parents often date for the wrong reasons. Here are a few common ones:

They’re overwhelmed: Single parents lead a hectic life. Just take a moment to imagine all of the situations that a couple with children faces on a daily basis. Now imagine doing all of that alone, by yourself with no other adult in the home. It is daunting, to say the least. Some single parents just want to find someone to marry them and help them parent the kids.

Revenge: Many single parents are so hurt that they want to get revenge at the parent who left them, so they think dating will hurt the other parent.

To make their ex jealous: Others want to start dating to make the other parent jealous. Many times in the back of their minds they think the ex-spouse will realize what he or she is missing and will want to reconcile.  

Loneliness: Lots of single parents are just lonely. When the child goes to visit the other parent, they want something to do and someone to be with them, so they think dating will solve that problem.

Low self-worth: Some single parents, especially women, feel as if they have no self-worth after the breakup, and these women think if they can find another man to cling to, it will lessen those feelings of not being worthy enough for a man to love them.

Emotional support: Almost all single parents will bring emotional baggage into a new relationship if they haven’t healed from whatever brought them to parenting alone. But many of them want someone else to carry their emotional baggage, so they look for someone to date.

Again, none of these reasons listed above are valid reasons to start dating. The people who date for these reasons are the ones who end up in relationships that fail.

Avoiding the dangerous dating land mine by helping single parents heal

For the most part, I encourage single parents to wait until they have been parenting successfully alone first before even considering dating.

The best advice to give a single parent about dating is to say to wait on the Lord. I can’t stress this enough: wait on the Lord. Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD,” is the one of the best Scriptures to use with single parents.

Practically, this means not wavering from what the Bible says about sexual purity and the requirement to marry other Christians. It also means parents should seek to make wise choices about dating and seek the input of others during the dating process (Prov. 15:22).

Help single parents heal from whatever circumstances brought them to parenting alone. DivorceCare is an excellent program for separated or newly divorced parents. It will connect them with others who are hurting because of a relationship breakup. It will help them heal from the deep hurts.

Single & Parenting is another great program that will help people learn how to parent alone. This program gives many great tips on single parenting. It also connects single parents with others who are parenting solo. It helps them know they are not alone in this journey.

Both DivorceCare and Single & Parenting have sessions on dating that will help single parents understand the many issues involved when a person raising children is dating.

The land mine—helping single parents navigate the dating scene

It can be scary getting back out into the world of dating. When single parents have healed and think they are ready to get back into dating, give them some guidelines. Remember, many single parents haven’t dated in years. Here are a few tips to pass along.

  • Know what you contributed (good and bad) to the relationship with your child’s other parent.
  • Evaluate what you need to change in order to help create a healthy relationship.
  • Examine your motives in starting to date.
    1.   Are you needy?
    2.  Are you emotionally healthy?
    3.  Do you have time to date? Dating can take time away from the kids, so make sure you have enough time to date. You may find you have time only when the kids are at the other parent’s home.
  • Start slow. Get to know someone as a friend before you go out on a date.
  • After a date, examine how you feel. Maybe even share your dating experience with a mentor who can help guide you and help you see clearly the positives and even negatives of the date.

Help a single parent know what to look for in a possible mate. Ron Deal, one of the Single & Parenting experts, says:

  • Look for someone who is a good parent to his or her kids.
  • Find someone who respects your relationship with your kids.
  • Look for someone who is not going to try to change your parenting/discipline skills.
  • Look for someone who understands your need to spend time with your children.
  • Look for someone who is flexible and can adapt to many different situations and who is willing to grow with you and your kids.
  • Find someone who understands stepfamilies or who is willing to learn and read about stepfamily dynamics.
  • Look for someone who is running after God.

You can watch free videos from Ron and other Single & Parent experts on the subject of dating and single sexuality here.

Get the single parent involved in social situations where the person can have fun, feel safe, and get connected with other people who are parenting alone or have parented alone. Find a trustworthy person in your church who can stay connected to the single parent as he or she begins to date.


Helping single parents make wise dating choices is a blessing to their children. Think about how to use some of these principles the next time you hear the child from a single-parent home say, “Mommy has a boyfriend!”


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