The Ultimate Guide to Dating With Children

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Dating With Children

Dating with children can be challenging, but with the right preparation and compassionate communication, single parents can find love again.

Dating with children…You’re a single parent dating someone, and you like each other. He knows you have kids. Maybe he has kids. Once you’re exclusive, how do you navigate a budding relationship with children in the picture? In this video, I cover everything you need to know about dating with children.

The Ultimate Guide to Dating With Children

How to prepare your kids when you’re ready to date

I recommend sitting down with your kids when you’re ready to date again. Have an honest and open conversation with them. Set clear boundaries with yourself first about what you will and won’t do in terms of sleepovers and introducing the kids to your new boyfriends. It can go something like this:

“I’m getting ready to date, and I wanted to talk to you about what that means for you. I won’t introduce you to anyone I date unless it becomes serious. If it does get serious, you and I will talk about how you’d like to meet him. No one will ever replace your father. Do you have any questions or concerns? I’d like to know what’s on your mind.”

How (and when) to talk about your kids with the people you date

I recommend you mention you have kids, but don’t discuss much about them at first. You’re getting to know each other, not each other’s kids. After a few dates, if you think the relationship has potential, you can share more about your children, but keep in mind if the relationship doesn’t escalate, he will never meet your kids, and he doesn’t need to know anything about them.

When to introduce your kids 

This is an individual preference, so you need to decide for yourself. My recommendation is to wait and see if the relationship is stable and exclusive before introductions are made. It’s too traumatic for kids to meet every man you date. They can easily become attached and hurt if/when you break up.

Issues That May Arise When Dating With Children

If he doesn’t get along with his kids

Does your date have kids he doesn’t see or take care of on a regular basis? Are his kids not talking to him? This is something that should be discussed on a first date, because it’s concerning. I would consider this to be a deal breaker.

If your kids don’t like your new partner

Talk to your kids about why they don’t like him. Get curious. Listen. Don’t get defensive. If they have valid concerns, address them. If they just need more time, set a timeframe that works for both of you. You may need to spend time at your partner’s home for a while longer until your kids are ready.

However, if your kids are more uncomfortable around your partner than they usually are around new people, that’s a red flag. If their discomfort lasts longer than it usually does around new people, that’s also a red flag.

If you don’t like how your partner parents his kids

Speak with him about your concerns, but do it gently and with curiosity. He’s been parenting his kids for a long time. You’re an outside observer. Your parenting styles will probably differ, but if you see something concerning, you have a right to say something.

If your partner doesn’t like or mistreats your kids

This is something you need to watch out for as you get deeper into a relationship with someone. He may criticize your children or mistreat them in some way. That’s unacceptable. When it comes to abuse or mistreatment, trust your gut. While there are some situations where you might be overreacting or you’re really not sure, most of the time, your parental intuition knows when something is wrong. Trust it.

If he tells you how to parent

What if you mention something that happened with your kids and how you dealt with it, and your date tells you how to parent them better? Whether he’s a parent himself or not, unsolicited parenting advice is a boundary violation. If you ask for advice on one situation, it doesn’t mean they get a pass to offer parenting advice on every situation after that.

If he doesn’t want to be a part of your kids’ lives

The two of you should discuss what role you see a man playing in your kids’ lives. Some men will be honest from the start that they don’t want kids and they don’t want to parent someone else’s kids. If your date doesn’t see any relationship with your kids at all, that’s a red flag.

Even once your kids are grown and on their own, you’ll still see them for holidays, weddings, and births of grandchildren — and that’s at a bare minimum. You’ll likely see them a lot more than that. Keeping a separate life with your kids is going to make your relationship difficult, whether the kids are at home or grown. The role he plays in your kids’ lives may be big or small, but there should be a willingness to be part of their lives.

If he has a contentious relationship with his ex-wife

If his relationship with the mother of his kids is unhealthy in any way, dating him will be challenging. There will likely be drama around the kids. The mom might be controlling. She might be manipulative. Maybe he has trouble setting boundaries with her. Maybe their divorce doesn’t have healthy boundaries. This is something to look out for and address early on, or your relationship will be wrought with issues.

If his kids are obstinate, unkind, or disrespectful

This will cause big problems in the relationship unless he is willing to set boundaries and prioritize having you in his life. Address this as soon as it happens, and be clear about the boundaries that you need to make the relationship work.

Getting back into the dating scene with kids can feel a bit intimidating. There’s so much to think about and watch for. These tips are a good starting point. As long as you put your kids first, and you find someone who does the same, you’ll be a good parent and have a good relationship.

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