Dating someone with kids can feel challenging, especially if you do not have any children of your own, but it doesn’t have to be.
There are certain elements of the relationship that you need to keep in mind, but when you do, things become so much easier! I have been working with a couple of clients recently who have come to me for help because their relationships were struggling, and one of the main things that was creating tension was the family dynamic.
For that reason, I wanted to write an article for you today on how to approach a relationship with someone who has kids, whether you have your own kids or not, and how you can really set yourselves up for a solid and successful relationship.
In today’s article, I am going to be explaining what kind of dynamic you should be prepared for, how to create and fine-tune your role in your partner’s children’s lives, how discipline comes into the picture, and how to handle moving in together in the best possible way.
If you have children of your own, I will also be giving you some tips on how to facilitate the process for them as well.
So if you want to know our biggest tips and tools when you’re dating someone with kids, you’ve come to the right place! Let’s dive right in, shall we?
Dating someone with kids: The dynamic
One of the first things I go over with people who come to me for advice on dating someone with kids has to do with the dynamic in the relationships. When you’re both single, it’s easy to make time for each other and be available in the evening. When a person has kids, however, they tend to have way more on their plate.
The amount of responsibilities that come with having children is life-altering. You have to make sure that their schooling is being taken care of, that they’re being fed and kept healthy, that you know what they’re doing and where they are… And those are just the basics. Having a child is like having another full time job, and sometimes people don’t realize this.
I have worked with clients who have experienced feelings of jealousy because their significant other spends more time with their children, or taking care of things for their children, than they do with them. It’s crucial that you understand what a time-consuming responsibility a child is.
The person you’re dating might have the best intention in the world and want nothing more than to spend time with you, but they are caring for another human being. So, inevitably, things will come up, there will be surprises, plans will be canceled, they might not be as available as you want them to be…
But if you go into this knowing that these are very common things when dating someone with kids, then you are setting yourself up for success. The more you prepare for something, the less of a negative effect it has on you.
Now, I don’t want you to think that I’m telling you this to deter you from dating someone with children. Quite the contrary actually. Having children is one of the most enriching experiences a person can have, and it is a great honor to be able to share in your significant other’s family dynamic.
I just want to give you a 360 degree view of the situation so that we can set you up for longterm success in this relationship. As I said, the more information you have on what to expect, the easier it is to navigate all the elements of dating a person who has kids and create a fulfilling, long-lasting, and stable relationship.
I bring this up because a couple of weeks ago, I was working with a client. I’ll call her Jessica to protect her identity. Jessica reached out to me because she was struggling with finding a place in her boyfriend’s busy life. He had two children with his ex wife, and Jessica felt that all the free time he had went to spending time with the kids.
She completely understood how important it was to him to be with them, but she was at a loss as to how she was supposed to develop a relationship with him when there were kids involved. And so our work began.
The first thing we needed to go over was the importance of not expecting to always come first. Love is a very powerful thing, and so is the love between parent and child.
This does not, however, mean that there will be no room for you in your partner’s life! You just have to approach the situation knowing that at times you will come first, and at times, you won’t. It can be a delicate thing to get used to if this is your first time dating someone who has kids, but it’s also important to realize that he or she won’t be with the kids 100% of the time.
In the majority of cases, this person is no longer living under the same roof as their ex, and their ex will most likely be spending time with their children as well.
It might take you a little bit of time to figure out how much time you spend together and when you see each other, but I don’t want the fact that kids are in the picture to be a deterrent. As we dive deeper into this article, I will be able to give you some more pointers on how to become a more integrated part of this person’s life. So let’s continue!
How to date someone with kids: things to think about when you’re getting closer
As the relationship between you and this person begins to develop and deepen, you will inevitably start to spend more time with his or her children, too.
This might not happen right away, especially if the kids are in their teens, because a person might want to wait before introducing them to someone who isn’t their parent. It’s very important to give your partner the time they need with this, because if you put pressure on the situation, it could blow up in your face.
One of the common issues that arise when dating someone with kids is the topic of discipline. How much of a role should you play in disciplining your partner’s child or children when they are misbehaving? How much of a say do you have over their parenting techniques? As you can imagine, this is a tricky topic and it requires a delicate approach.
What we usually advise to our clients who are in this type of situation is to respect your partner’s parenting style and to not enforce your approach on to them. You can absolutely give your significant other suggestions, but be careful to avoid doing it in a way that makes them feel like you’re calling their parenting ability into question.
People are incredibly protective of their children and if they start to feel like someone is telling them that they’re doing a bad job at raising them, it can lead to big fights. I want to bring this to your attention because it is one of the most common issues I see in my coaching sessions with patchwork families, i.e., families that have blended.
Instead, I encourage you to approach it from a place of support, where you can show your partner that you’re there to help if they need you to. If they open up to you about struggles that they have with raising and disciplining their children, you can give them suggestions as to how to handle it, or approaches that you have known to work. Pay attention to your approach.
Another question that a lot of people have for me when they start dating something with kids, is whether or not they’re allowed to discipline their partner’s children. Let’s say one of the kids misbehaves with you, what do you do? This is where communication comes into play.
It’s hard enough to discipline your own children, but disciplining someone else’s children can feel completely impossible. For this reason, it is crucial that you and your significant other maintain open dialogue about how you’re going to handle this, and make sure that you’re both applying the same approach.
Regardless of the child’s age, it will be critical for you and your partner to have on-going communication in order for discipline to be effective and consistent. It’s also important to not undermine one another, especially not in front of the child in question.
For example, a lot of people try to win their partner’s children’s love by allowing the kids to do the things that their parent does not allow. For example, let’s say that your partner tells their kids that they can’t have dessert unless they finish their green beans, but you give them a bowl of ice cream anyway… This only makes your partner look bad in the eyes of their children and makes their job harder. On the flip side, if you say the kids can’t do something that your partner usually allows, it takes away your credibility in their eyes. I cannot stress the importance of open dialogue between you and your significant other enough. You have to make sure that neither of you is undermining the other and making their jobs harder, as this will only lead to tension, fights, and distance.
Dating with kids: How to handle moving in together
The topic of how to handle moving in together with kids are involved presents a lot of questions for my clients. How soon is too soon? How do you get the kids to accept you in the family? How do you create a relationship between your own kids and your partner’s kids…?
It’s normal to have so many questions swirling around in your head, but there is one trick that I have found to work particularly well. I was coaching Aria who had come to me for some pointers because she was dating a man with kids. Aria had two younger kids of her own, ages 6 and 12, and the conversation about moving in together had come up. The relationship between Aria and her boyfriend was going very well and they had been seeing each other for close to a year, but they hadn’t spent much time with all of their children together. Aria was worried that moving in together would be too much of a shock, even though it felt like the time was right and both she and her partner wanted it. Neither of them wanted to put unnecessary stress on their children, and they wanted to figure out a way to bond. So I suggested that they take a weekend trip somewhere, all together. It should be someplace fun, maybe with a pool or plenty of outdoor activities that the kids would enjoy.
This way, the kids can develop bonds independently of the parents, and they can get a feel for what coexisting would feel like. We want to give them opportunities to connect while helping them to associate positive memories with your relationship.
If you are dating someone with kids and they’re moving into your home, before they officially make the move, invite the kids to stay with you guys for a couple of nights at your place. This way they can get familiarized with your home and start to feel more comfortable. The last thing you want to do is make the move feel like a shock, or the new house feel like something that is super foreign to the kids. You’ll need to warm them up to the idea simply by letting them experience the positive elements of moving in together little by little, until it doesn’t feel like such a foreign concept anymore.
That said, it’s also important to not abandon your independent family traditions entirely. The kids will need to feel that not everything will change when you move in together. Encourage your partner to do the same with his or her children, and you’ll see that this will greatly benefit your relationship.
You’ll also want to regularly check in with the kids and see how they’re doing. Let them know and understand that they are in a safe place to talk to you about their feelings and their needs. I also want to stress the importance of offering the same type of openness and support to your partner’s children as you start to get to know each other better. I know it can be hard at times, especially if the kids are actively trying to resist change.
You know, one of my childhood friends was actually in a situation where his dad was marrying someone new. His parents had been divorced for a long time, and his mom actually passed away in a tragic car accident. My friend was in high school when this happened. Around the time that he was 17 or 18, he learned that his dad had been in a serious relationship with a woman out in Florida, where he lived at the time, and the news was not well-received. The grief was still present following his mom’s accident, and the thought of his dad being with another person and actually marrying them made my friend feel sick. I remember him saying that he doesn’t know how his dad expects his kids to just welcome this other person with open arms. He was convinced that he would never form a relationship with his dad’s new partner. Well, in time, and after a holiday trip with the two families together, sure enough, they started to ease the tension. I honestly remember thinking that the process was going to take way longer but then in the matter of a few months, his dad’s new wife became fully integrated into their lives, and so did her children. It also helped that she was just a lovely human being, and understood that it was going to take some time. She didn’t do anything that made her husband’s children uncomfortable and was able to handle the situation with finesse.
So, all that to say that even when things feel really challenging and maybe even impossible, they’re not! You can absolutely blend your families and create a dynamic that is truly gratifying for everyone involved.
I do encourage you to reach out to us for one on one coaching. In this article, I have gone over the basics, but there are elements in each relationship that makes it unique. Here at Happily Committed, we have dedicated our lives to giving you all the tips and tools you need to truly thrive in your relationship. By asking you specific questions about your relationship your family dynamics, we can create a custom action plan for you so that you can set yourself up for longterm success. To work with me or a member of my team, just click here!
Dating or marrying someone with kids
What it all boils down to is patience. Dating someone with kids presents a unique set of challenges, but none of them are insurmountable. And once you’re able to solidify your bond and blend your families, you will be able to open up the door to an incredibly fruitful relationship for everyone involved! Remember, all relationships have their own challenges anyway, and children bring so much joy to a person’s life.
The most precious things in life take time to develop and nurture, so I don’t want you to be stuck wondering, “Is dating a man with a child worth it,” or “Is dating a girl with a kid a bad idea.” These can truly be some of the most rewarding relationships.
So, to summarize what we went over today:
- Don’t expect to always come first.
- Respect your partner’s parenting style and don’t enforce your approach onto them.
- Before moving in, begin by taking a trip away, where all the kids can interact and generate bonds independently of the parents, as well as see what co-existing is like.
- When moving in, if you’re moving in to one of the people’s homes, start by inviting the kids to stay in the house a few days a week before the official move in so they can feel comfortable.
- Don’t abandon independent family traditions when moving into another family’s space – show the kids that not everything will change.
- Regularly check in with the kids to ensure they feel heard and that their needs are being met.
And to leave you with one last bit of advice before I go, make sure that you schedule a date night with the one you love. Because there are so many things going on when children are involved, it’s easy to lose track of the romance between you. So, make it a priority and it will benefit the relationship.
Wishing you the very best,
Your coach when you want to know about setting yourself up for success when you’re dating someone with kids