January 06, 2005
Dating someone with kids. Straight talk to men and women about dating, when one or both have kids.
A ready-made family can be a blessing or a deal-breaker when it comes to dating.
Many single parents are afraid to begin dating again, because they think their children make them less desirable. By the same token, many non-parents are put off by the idea of dating someone with kids because they don’t want to seen as a convenient surrogate parent. Yet many relationships flourish despite, or even because, of the children. In many cases, the joys of a “blended family” can be more than the sum of its parts.
We asked the experts – single parents who found love and romance through Internet dating – for their tips, cautions, and advice when it comes to dating with children.
• Are you looking for a partner for yourself, or a parent for your child? Some of our members told us that single parents who put too much emphasis on their kids can scare off potential dates.
• Don’t bring the kids with you on a first date. Wait until a relationship has had a chance to develop before you begin doing things together as a family.
• You do not need to introduce every date to your children – in fact this may be disruptive and confusing for them. Then again, don’t wait until you’re ready to announce your engagement before breaking the news to the children. When a relationship starts to get serious, it’s appropriate for everyone to start getting to know each other.
• Consider the feelings of your kids. If you’re single because of a divorce or separation, kids often feel they are somehow to blame. Bringing a new partner into the relationship can cause the kids to feel emotional confusion and even resentment. Be sure to let the kids know that your date is not meant to replace their “real” mom or dad.
• A loving partner deserves his or her fair share of attention. You are more than just a parent – if your life revolves around your children, your adult relationships can suffer unless you consciously make time for your partner as well as for your kids.
• Before the relationship develops too far, you should discuss and establish child discipline roles with a new partner. House rules need to be applied consistently, and both adults need to support each other’s decisions.
• Child support, custody and relations with your ex are matters for you and your ex-spouse to deal with privately. It’s inappropriate to expect a new partner to take sides.
• Do either or both of you want more children? This can be a big source of conflict in a relationship if one does, but the other doesn’t or can’t. Also consider the emotional effect on the children – a new baby may make the older kids feel they’ve been displaced in your affections.
• Kids are kids, friends are friends. Your kids are not appropriate confidantes about your dating and relationship issues, unless the kids are adults themselves. Don’t add to their confusion by putting them in adult roles.
• Although this is something nobody wants to think about, a small percentage of people seek out single parents as a way to gain access to children for potential abuse. For the safety and well-being of your family, please do the necessary background investigations before you get too involved with someone.
• Little pitchers have big ears. Be sure that your behavior in front of the kids is appropriate. In particular, be careful about displaying physical affection when the children are around. They know more – and understand less – than you may think. Don’t do anything in front of the kids that would embarrass you if they were to report back to the other parent.
• Children use their parents’ behavior as a model for their own lives. Though they may not express it all the time, you’re not just a parent, you’re their hero. The examples you set for your kids will influence them over a lifetime.
Remember, these are just guidelines. A lot will depend on the age of the children. Are there one, two or three? Are they 5 or 15, big difference. In talking with many of our singles who have re-entered the dating world, most agreed on these key points:
1) Don't introduce the kids to your date until the relationship has matured and you really know this person. Your kids don't need to grow an attachment only to feel the same hurt or pain when a relationship breaks off. Too many parents don't understand that their kids actually hurt for their mom or dad when they know a relationship didn't work out. They don't have the maturity to understand the dating world. Protect them, leave them out of it for the first three months, period. Yes, it's difficult, yes you have a life too, three months is still our recommendation.
2) Okay, so it's been three months, you meet her kid(s), she's cooking dinner for you. Guys, don't do sleepovers. Yes, it's tempting. Yes, I know you don't want to leave. When the kids go to bed, only to wake up and see you still there, it causes all kinds of confusion. Trust me, you’d better be seriously considering putting a ring on her finger if you're going to start doing sleepovers. Kids will not easily forget the person who shared Mom or Dad's bed. You may not understand the damage it causes until they reach 14 years of age, but by then you will.
3) Single parents need to be able to sit down with their kids before they introduce these key relationship milestones. Remember, as parents we are teachers. Our kids are our students. Think about the lessons we're teaching them, and ask yourself, "Do they understand?". If not, you need to work harder.
Until the relationship matures into something serious, we recommend you keep the kids "out" of it. Have a date night, but don't let the kids feel threatened by it. You only have your kids living with you for a very short time, think about them first. Both of you!
Posted by LC at January 6, 2005 12:18 PM