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When the time comes to start dating as a single parent, things can become complicated.

Morris lost the love of her life in 1991 when her husband, Steve, died of cancer.

“It was a very difficult time,” says Morris. “I was grieving the loss of my husband in addition to taking care of three toddlers who didn’t really understand what happened to their daddy. One minute we were a happy family – and the next minute I found myself without my helpmate and a single parent – something I never dreamed I would be.”

According to experts, many parents never plan to raise their children alone, but due to life circumstances they are doing just that. While they would like to find someone to fall in love with who would accept the “total package,” the thought of entering the dating scene again seems awkward and difficult to manage with children.

“Although I was lonely, I felt like my first priority had to be my children,” Morris says.

“For the first year after my husband’s death, I tried to focus on what my children needed. Plus, I needed time to grieve and heal. I relied on family and close friends for support and encouragement. It wasn’t until almost a year had passed that I even considered the idea of another man in my life. I prayed for someone who would be interested in me and my boys, which was no small request!”

Friends set Morris up on several blind dates, none of which were good matches. Shortly after that, Morris packed up her family and moved from Atlanta back to Chattanooga.

“Right before we moved, I asked my oldest son, who was 5 at the time, what he wanted me to look for in a new daddy,” Morris shares. “Many of the things he wanted were on my list as well. The last two items on his list were that the man not have any other wife, and no children. I thought that was interesting coming from a 5-year-old.

“During the time I was dating there were some pretty awkward moments that I can laugh about now. For example, my two other boys were so young, it was hard for them to understand anything more than I was looking for a new daddy. As we were moving into our new home, a neighborhood high school guy came by to welcome us. One of the boys greeted him at the door by asking, ‘Are you going to be my new daddy?’”

Morris only went out with five men before she met the man who would become her husband and a father to her three boys. She decided early in the dating process that while she would protect her boys, she would allow her dates to meet them and vice versa. She also put together a list of questions to ask if she felt like the relationship was getting serious.

“I was cautious about who I would go out with because I knew there would be many who could not handle the fact that marrying me meant becoming an instant father,” Morris says.

If you’re a single parent, experts encourage you not to rush into dating and to be thoughtful about how you handle the dating process. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Are you ready to date? Don’t let others pressure you into dating before you are ready. Make sure you have dealt with your grief and other issues that can potentially taint a dating relationship. Sometimes you need professional help to sort through your emotions.
  • Have you given thought to what you are looking for in a date? Dating can be complicated for a single parent. Just finding the time to date, not to mention childcare, can be a real challenge. Make sure the person is worth your time and energy.
  • Will you allow your date to meet your children or will you meet at a different place? Keep in mind that it may be hard on children forming attachments to people, only to have them leave.

“I think being a single parent is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do,” Morris says. “It is a pretty vulnerable place to be. You really need good, solid friends who can be a support while you are going through this awkward dating thing. Solid relationships are key. When we have to go through very difficult times, it helps to have one person we can share the hard things with. Sometimes that is what can help us get through the best.”

Morris met her current husband, Jay, in January of 1994. Their first date was in February. By June, Morris knew she had found her man. They married in October and a year and a half later, Jay Morris adopted the three boys.

For more insight on parenting, download our E-book, “10 Tips for Blended Families.” Download Here

Looking for more? Check out this JulieB TV episode on this topic!

Tabi Upton is on the single journey. She describes her life as footloose and fancy free when she was in her 20s.

“I loved not being tied down to anyone or anything,” Upton says. “I lived in California for a while, worked for the Peace Corps in West Africa and went to graduate school in Colorado.”

Upton had a plan to spend her 20s doing whatever she wanted. Then, she planned to marry in her 30s and settle down to have a family. Everything seemed to be falling into place.

“I did get engaged in my late 20s,” Upton says. “He was a great guy, but the more time we spent together the more I realized I wasn’t in love with him. We ended up breaking the engagement. Even though I knew it was the right thing to do, it was scary. It made me wonder if I would ever find Mr. Right.”

When Upton turned 30 as a single, anxiety set in.

If she dated she wondered, “What does he want? Is this going to go anywhere?” She struggled with the whole dating thing emotionally and became depressed about being single.

“I resented people who told me it wasn’t a big deal and not to worry about it,” Upton shares. “Sometimes I think people don’t allow you to be honest with your feelings because it is uncomfortable for them. Over time I have become much more peaceful about where I am in life. I have wonderful friendships, a supportive family, and some great male friendships that have really enriched my life. Right now I am choosing to focus on pursuing my dreams, work, writing and things I want to do.”

Despite a growing trend to marry later in life, more than 90 percent of Americans say they plan to marry. So how do you handle the single years while waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right?

“As a counselor I tell my clients it isn’t about having your life all in order before you marry,” Upton states. “Your education and career are important. So is making sure that you are a healthy person, good marriage material and that you are proactive and intentional about putting yourself in places where you are likely to find a good marriage partner.”

Believe it or not, the most likely way to find a future marriage partner is through family, friends or acquaintances.

According to research conducted by The National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, social networks are important in bringing together individuals of similar interests and backgrounds. This is especially true when it comes to selecting a marriage partner, despite the romantic notion that people meet and fall in love through chance or fate. And according to a large-scale national survey, family, friends, co-workers or other acquaintances introduced almost 60 percent of married people.

The study also found that the more similar values, backgrounds and life goals people have, the more likely they are to succeed in marriage. Opposites may attract, but they may not live together harmoniously as married couples. People who share common backgrounds and similar social networks are more suitable marriage partners than people with very different backgrounds and networks.

Image from Unsplash.com

Do you know:

  • What percentage of childhood sexual abuse victims know their abuser?
  • Where might you find someone who sexually abuses children?
  • What percentage of child sexual abuse victims tell someone about the abuse?
  • What percentage of child sexual abuse reports by children are false?

Unfortunately, most people don’t want to spend time thinking about this topic. But for the sake of children, it requires your attention. About 1 in 10 children will experience sexual abuse before turning 18. And, it might surprise you to learn that about 90 percent of child sexual abuse victims know their abuser.

Perhaps you’ve been led to believe that child sexual abusers look like shady characters. If so, think again. According to Darkness to Light, a website devoted to ending child sexual abuse, those who molest children usually look and (mostly) act just like everyone else.

You can find people who sexually abuse children in families, schools, places of worship, recreation centers, youth sports leagues and any other place children gather.

And it’s important to realize that abusers can be and often are other children, although most youth sex offenders are not sexual predators and will not go on to become adult offenders.

Researchers estimate that 38 percent of child victims tell someone about their sexual abuse. Of these, 40 percent tell a close friend. This means that the vast majority of child sexual abuse victims never report it to authorities. Research suggests, however, that such disclosure rates may be increasing. And that people only falsify 4 to 8 percent of child sexual abuse reports.

Who’s most at risk?

  • Family structure is the most important risk factor in child sexual abuse. Children who live with two married biological parents are at low risk for abuse.
  • Children living without either parent are 10 times more likely to be sexual abuse victims than children who live with both biological parents.
  • Those who live with a single parent who has a live-in partner are 20 times more likely to be victimized than children living with both biological parents.
  • Females are five times more likely to experience abuse than males.
  • While there’s risk for children of all ages, children are most vulnerable to abuse between the age of 7 and 13.
  • The risk for sexual abuse is tripled for children whose parent(s) are not in the workforce.

Who are perpetrators looking for?

First, you should know that perpetrators say they look for passive, quiet, troubled, lonely children from single-parent or broken homes. Abusers frequently seek out children who are particularly trusting, working proactively to establish a relationship with them before abusing them. They might also seek to establish a trusting relationship with the victim’s family as well.

So, what are some ways to protect children from sexual abuse?

1: Learn the facts. Reading this is a great start.

2: Minimize the risk. Eliminate or reduce isolated, one-on-one situations to decrease risk for abuse.

3: Talk about it. Have open conversations with children about our bodies, sex, and boundaries.

4: Recognize the signs. Know the signs of abuse to protect children from further harm.

5: React responsibly. Understand how to respond to risky behaviors and suspicions or reports of abuse.

Everyone can take action against child sexual abuse.

Finally, if you want know more about how you can protect children from sexual abuse, visit Darkness to Light. You’ll find more resources, along with a downloadable booklet for families and communities that outlines the steps you can take.

If you suspect abuse, call 1-800-4-A-CHILD.

The Effects of Childhood Trauma

A child's home life plays a huge part.

Of the 76 million children living in the United States, a staggering 60 percent (46 million) of them will experience the effects of childhood trauma: violence, abuse, crime and psychological trauma before they turn 18. That’s according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Believe it or not, home life plays a huge part in these statistics.

Specifically, children from single-parent homes seem to be at higher risk for adverse childhood experiences than those who live with both parents.

The National Survey of Children’s Health asked parents of 95,677 children under 18 if their kids had ever seen or heard “any parents, guardians or any other adults in the home slap, hit, kick, punch or beat each other up.” Nineteen of every 1,000 children living with their two married biological parents experienced that type of behavior. Sadly, the exposure rate was seven times higher (144 children per 1,000) in homes with a divorced or separated mother. These comparisons are adjusted for differences across age, sex, race, family income, poverty status and parent’s education level.

In an Institute for Family Studies article, Nicholas Zill, a psychologist and child and family well-being researcher with more than 40 years of experience, writes:

“Experiencing family violence is stressful for children, undercuts their respect and admiration for parents who engage in abusive behavior, and is associated with increased rates of emotional and behavioral problems at home and in school. For children of never-married mothers who witnessed family violence, 58 percent had conduct or academic problems. Among children of divorced or separated mothers, nearly half of those exposed to family violence, 48 percent, had had conduct or academic problems at school.”

So, how do adverse childhood experiences affect children long-term? Do they set the stage for greater difficulty later in life? Are children resilient?

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, studied more than 17,000 adults to find out. It examined the links between traumatic childhood experiences (abuse, neglect and family dysfunction including divorce, incarceration, substance abuse and mental health issues) and current adult health and well-being.

According to that study, exposure to adverse childhood experiences hinders the ability to form stable and healthy adult relationships. Plus, those experiences increase the risk for:

  • Experiencing substance abuse;
  • Depression;
  • Cardiovascular disease;
  • Diabetes;
  • Cancer; and
  • Premature death.

In contrast, healthy relationships at home, school and in the community can nurture a child’s physical and emotional growth. Children need these types of relationships from birth forward in order to thrive and grow into productive adults.

What can you do?

  • Create a safe and stable home for your kids.
  • Actively engage in your child’s life.
  • Learn skills to help you manage and resolve conflict.
  • Take parenting classes for various ages and stages.
  • Make sure your neighborhood is a safe place.

Safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are among the most powerful and protective forces in a child’s life. So in order to promote healthy child development, we must be diligent in creating those safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments. As a community, we all share responsibility for the well-being of our children.

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***