For Part I in the series, click

In Part I of the series, we explored different combinations of children from either or both partners and how this relates to interacting with children when dating. At this point, in Part II, we are assuming you are in a committed relationship. You have gotten to know each other well enough to know you are a good match and you wish to continue to see each other. If you have gotten the kids together before this part of the relationship unfolds, you have already made a mistake. If you are a serial dater, there is never a reason to involve the children. It just leads to potential attachments and when the relationship abruptly ends, the kids can be confused or even heartbroken.

Before the integration begins, the partners should inform the kids that they have been dating. This has already probably come out but it is good to remind them what has been going on. Smaller children can’t always grasp this concept as they have little frame of reference so it should be explained that they have a new friend who they really like and they would like them to meet. Keep it simple.

When we first integrate either both parties children or one partner’s children with the childless partner, it should not be overly dramatic. What I mean by this is the first time shouldn’t be Disneyland or some grand adventure. But it should be active. Passively sitting around talking can lead to awkward conversations or some weird version of a  Q & A session. Kids like activity. They crave focus. Getting out of the house is a good start. Go out for ice cream or something more active like a rock wall or going for a hike are great ideas. If you are staying in, playing a game is a good ice breaker too. Activities keep everyone focused including the adults and it will feel much more natural to the kids. Through these activities, everyone will start to get to know each other in a positive and safe environment.

Do not take a successful first day or days as an invitation to start spending the night. For the sake of your longer term relationship and the well-being of the kids, if you intend to spend the night when children are home, it should be introduced gradually. Start by spending time doing activities without spending the night. That can become twice or even three times if things are going well. But you should dwell in this area for at least a month until everyone is comfortable. It is then up to the parent with the kids in the house to introduce the idea of the other partner to spending the night. If both partners have kids, it can be introduced as a sleepover or a movie night and it will seem more normal.

One of the bigger mistakes people make when this integration begins is uprooting a child’s routines. While kids crave focus, they also crave stability. If they have been sleeping in their Mom’s bed every Tuesday night as a treat for the past six years and all of a sudden that ends when the sleepovers begin, it can be viewed as a hostile act. So pay attention to the little things because, small as they may seem to you, they can mean a lot to kids. It’s up to you and your partner to communicate what these things are.

Once you are successful in interacting and everyone seems comfortable, keeping kids in the loop is important. Remember, they like structure. It might be best to have a schedule. “On Tuesdays and Saturdays, Alicia will be staying,” for example. If this is unrealistic, then inform the kids before the sleepover happens. By doing so, you are putting the kids first.

I may have painted a rosy picture for this transition. But things don’t always go so smoothly in real life. Kids from different partners can be territorial, jealous or even combative. In Part III, we will take a look at how to cope with these problems and how to overcome them or what to do when they cannot be resolved.

For Part I in the series, click