The older you get, the more “baggage” there is. This is an inevitable fact of life- you gain more experiences and you’re not the only one who’s going to have a history when it comes to starting a new relationship.
So what if you started dating someone with a kid, or maybe more than one kid. You’ve never had a kid of your own, and suddenly you’re getting yourself into a relationship where you’re “my mum’s boyfriend,” or “my dad’s girlfriend”. You might even be considering taking the next step to becoming “my stepdad” or “my step mum”.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can establish an orderly relationship with your partner’s children. It is just as disorienting, if not more so for the child or children (try to remember that you are older and maybe wiser), as it is for you.
Here are some tips to remember to help you with the potentially challenging situation of dating with kids.
Don’t attempt to be another parent
You need to be patient with your partner’s precious little baby. It might hurt for you to think that you’re being cast as the role of an evil step-parent but think about the pain that your partner’s child endured with the separation (especially if it’s recent), or just having a single parent.
You need to have the flexibility to adjust and let others adjust to you. Especially when you’re becoming a regular fixture, you’re in for the long haul. Gain the kid or kids’ trust, and be there for them when they come to you.
Don’t disciple your partner’s kid
When it comes to discipline, it’s important that you don’t discipline your partner’s kid.
The saying “blood deals with blood” is very apt here, because it’s not up to you to set the rules with your date’s children.
Instead, think of yourself as a consultant who is there to lend an ear or a shoulder for support for your partner. Let them come to you whenever there’s an issue and you can offer advice, which he or she is free to take- or not.
If you have children of your own, don’t force the kids into being siblings
All dating rules need to be disregarded, especially if you have kids of your own as well. You need to ease the news and the acquaintanceship of your children.
In fact, you should keep your private life separate from your parenting life. The same would apply to your partner who has children. The odds are high that until things look fairly permanent, you’re going to be dating in secret.
This is good news as well because it means that your partner isn’t bringing new partners in and out of their house, which keeps the family life more stable.
Don’t stop your partner communicating with the ex
The ex is not going anywhere because they have a common denominator: the children. The mother or father of the children is going to be in contact frequently, possibly even with you.
Try to place romance aside for just a little bit and consider what’s best for the kids. This will probably diminish the evil step-parent effect as well. You need to place jealousies aside- you are the new relationship, and the new chapter of your partner’s life.
If you haven’t met the kid yet, ask as many questions as possible about him or her, so that you know what you’re dealing with. It’s also going to be your future reference point for when you might have children with this partner.
Dating with kids is not an easy proposition for some people. You should think very seriously about what you’re getting yourself into, and whether you can accept your significant other splitting their times between you, their personal life, and their kids.
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Since 2003, Clinton Power has helped thousands of couples and individuals as a counsellor and psychotherapist in private practice in Sydney and online in Australia. Clinton regularly comments in the media on issues of relationships and has appeared on Channel 7, The Sydney Morning Herald, and ABC Radio. Clinton’s eBook, 31 Days to Build a Better Relationship is available through his website or Amazon. Click here to take Clinton’s relationship checkup quiz to find out how well you know your partner.