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Special Needs Parenting and Dating - Can They co-exist?

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  • Article summary:

    Dating is difficult. Dating as a single parent is even more difficult. Throw in a child with special needs, and it can seem overwhelming. But it is possible to have a life that includes dating. It just takes a little thought and planning.

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Special Needs Parenting and Dating - Can They co-exist?

Many times, the biggest concern parents have is how and when to tell a potential romantic partner about their child’s special needs. Some feel it’s best to have several dates first, and let their date get to know them before telling them they have a special needs child. Others feel that you should tell a possible date before you even have the first date, so they can opt out of dealing with your life if they want.

The best thing to do is what you feel comfortable with. You might find that you handle each date differently, depending on how you think they will react. You may also find that it’s easier to test the waters a bit, by discussing disabilities in general terms, and get their thoughts that way. In doing so, they may make clear that they want nothing to do with it, or are too selfish or immature to deal with it, and you will decide there’s no reason to inform them, as you have no intention of continuing to see them.

Another thing that some parents like to do is to ensure their dates are educated about their child’s condition. There are a wealth of books, websites, and articles available on just about any condition. A parent might keep a couple of books, or have a few websites, that they ask their dates to check out. This can be an excellent way of gauging whether or not your date is a keeper: If he/she is not familiar with your child’s condition, but is willing to take your reading suggestions (or better yet, researches with no prompting from you!), this is great sign that this person might be someone worth keeping. If, however, he/she shows no interest at all, or flatly refuses to do anything that might help them become more familiar with your child and your life, then there’s probably not much point to continuing to date them.

The biggest worry for most single parents, whether their child has special needs or not, is when to introduce their child to their date. This can be an especially difficult concern, because there are so many conflicting views: some people say immediately, some say six months, or when it’s serious, or even when you are about to marry.

You must, as the parent and the person who knows your child best (and knows your date fairly well, hopefully), determine when the right time has come to introduce them to each other. It’s always a good idea to keep that first meeting low key, and somewhat brief. Both your child and your date may find themselves feeling slightly overwhelmed by this other aspect to your life, and by keeping it brief and casual, you allow each of them the opportunity to get to know each other a bit but also to be able to process whats happening without having to wait hours to do so.

Sometimes you might just be so conflicted about how to deal with a date, whether it’s when or how to tell them, or when to introduce them to your child, that you need to talk to someone else. Yet it can be hard to find someone who can truly understand where you’re coming from. In situations like that, you might consider joining a support group, if you’re not already a member of one.

Wendy Miller

Wendy Miller is a single mother to 2 sons with ADHD, and her youngest son once had a speech impediment. When she discovered how hard it was to find the information and services she needed to help her children, she wanted to help others in the same situation.



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