Between 40-50% of marriages end in divorce. This number doesn’t include those people who have kids out of wedlock and are no longer together. This leaves a massive pool of single parents in our society. Some or even all of the people you date will have children living with them part or full time. This can lead to some awkward or even painful situations for you, your partner, and the kids if it is done incorrectly. Let’s take a look at some scenarios in dating with kids and explore healthy ways for couples with kids from another relationship to interact.
When She Has Kids
There are two ways a dating relationship can arise when kids are involved. The first, and probably less common way, is you are in a friendship with someone who has kids. After some time passes, you decide that you may want to pursue something more than friendship. Depending how long you have known the person and how close your friendship is, you may already know her kids. If the kids are old enough to know the difference between friendships and romantic relationships, chances are they may have seen it coming. Kids are a lot smarter than are given credit most of the time.
The second, probably more common scenario, is you met on a dating site or in a social setting or friends hooked you up. You hit it off with someone who has kids and you are interested in dating each other.
In either scenario, there is no reason to announce this potential romance. Wait until you are at least a month or two in to be sure it appears to be a relationship that is going to stick. Lots of people have romantic intentions only to realize they are making a mistake, they aren’t ready, or (fill-in-the-blank), and they back out early.
If it looks good for a longer term relationship, it is up to the parent, not you, to explain the situation to their own kids. You should not get involved in this initial discussion because the kids will need that safe and private arena with their parent so they can openly express their feelings about it without you looming around.
When You Have Kids
Really the same advice applies here as above. If you are just beginning to see someone, there is no need to announce this to your kids. You certainly shouldn’t be taking them over to meet your potential girlfriend and vice versa. A problem you may run into is if you have met someone who has dated frequently as a single parent. They might want to start mixing the kids right away and have sleepovers. Kids, like adults, need time to get to know each other before they are thrown into this type of setting. If your new partner is pushing for this early, it is probably a bad sign for a long term relationship anyway. With few exceptions, they are probably falling into a pattern they have been repeating since they became single.
This is why the first scenario above (the less common one) in actually better for kids. If they are comfortable around you as a couple of friends, it is much more likely that they can transition into dealing with your romantic relationship later. In the second scenario of no friendship first, it is probably better to wait longer before introducing kids/sleepovers etc. Waiting three to six months before integrating kids into the mix is better for everyone.
When You Both Have Kids
We have busy lives and they are busier still when we are raising children. When we start to date someone new and both parties involved have children, it’s a lot easier, cheaper and more convenient to start lumping everyone together in social and sleepover situations. But the truth is, it really isn’t healthy early on.
Use relatives or baby sitters to care for the kids when you go on dates. If you are sleeping over, do not do it when the kids are home in the early stages of dating. This is especially scary for kids if they don’t know what is going on. There is nothing more awkward than a kid walking into their parent’s bedroom to find a half dressed stranger in the bed.
In Part Two, we will talk about how, in a potentially longer term relationship, to begin integrating the kids into the relationship.