Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Ron Deal's book, Dating and the Single Parent (Bethany House, 2012).

When you’re a single parent or dating someone who is, you need to consider more than just whether or not your relationship should lead to marriage. You also need to consider how well you all may be able to form a healthy stepfamily together.

It’s can be tempting to just focus on your romance when you’re in love, but when children are involved, you have a sacred responsibility to make wise dating decisions that reflect God’s best for all of you.

Here’s how you can date wisely as a single parent:

Realize the significance of your dating decisions. The decisions you make now are about much more than just whether or not you and your date have a good time together. Your dating choices will have spiritual, emotional, and psychological impact for many years to come, so take them seriously.

Pray for wisdom. Ask God every day to give you the wisdom you need to make the very best dating decisions, and choose to follow the guidance God gives you, even when doing so is difficult. Keep in mind that your perspective on your relationships is limited, whereas God’s perspective is complete – so it makes sense to trust God’s guidance.

Date with the right purposes and goals. It’s important to know what’s motivating you to date, and what goals you have for your dating relationships. God’s purposes for single parent dating involve discerning: if you and your date can walk humbly with God together and share common values, if you can both love each other sacrificially with your whole hearts, and if the children involved will truly be blessed by combining your families. God’s goals for dating are healthy marriages and families. If your purposes and goals are anything less than that (such as to reduce your lonely feelings, to find a replacement spouse so you’ll have help with parenting and financial responsibilities, or just to have fun), stop dating and wait until you’re really ready to embrace dating in a way that can lead to the best outcomes for you and your family.

Be patient. Rushing into dating or marriage can harm your romantic and family relationships. You must take all the time necessary to truly get to know a potential spouse and his or her family thoroughly before making decisions that will significantly affect the lives of everyone concerned. It’s best to wait at least two years after a divorce or the death of a spouse to start dating again, and then to wait at least another two years after dating before deciding to get married. It’s worthwhile to invest the time now so you can hopefully prevent heartbreak and damage to your family later.

Rather than looking for the right person, become the right person. Instead of looking for the right person to date, first focus on becoming the spiritually and emotionally healthy person that God wants you to be before entering into another romantic relationship. Honestly ask yourself whether or not you’ve healed from the trauma of your divorce or previous spouse’s death, how confident you are in relying on God alone instead of hoping that dates will meet your emotional needs, and how vulnerable you are to being drawn into romantic fantasies that distort the reality of relationships. Keep in mind that the loss of your previous marriage has permanently changed you and your kids, but those changes can result in you all growing to become stronger people who are more like Jesus. Surrender your own will for your dating life to God and trust Him to lead you as you consider new dating relationships.