How to Date Someone With Kids

Dating someone who has kids is a big deal. No matter how excited you are about your growing relationship, the fact remains that your new love interest is already involved with their children, and you will eventually have to decide if you want to make that commitment as well.

“The most important thing to know when dating a single parent is that they are committed to their children first and foremost. This is especially true with new relationships,” says Nancy Fagan , a marriage broker. She notes that if you’re dating a single parent for the first time, you may encounter a few things you may not have planned.

“You have to win over not only parents, but also children,” she says. “You may want all the time and attention of single parents, but you have to admit that this is not possible. Their children will receive an equal share, if not more.” It also means that you will have a hard time getting your partner’s undivided attention if there are no children around.

“Never insist that a single parent put you first,” Fagan advises. “It might be the fastest way to end a relationship.”

Dating is a journey full of ups and downs, with or without kids. If you really feel for this person and want to keep dating him, great. But it’s important to be aware of some of the unique challenges of a single parent relationship, especially if you’re truly in love with your new partner and want to go the extra mile. Here’s what else you need to know before dating someone with kids, or at least before taking them more seriously.

Ask yourself these questions

Before you start imagining taking kids to football games, there are a few questions you should ask yourself when dating someone who has kids. Your answers to them can affect your relationship. Issues that Fagan considers critical to consider are:

  • How much do you want to work with children?
  • Are you ready to take second place after the kids?
  • Are you ready to share time with children?
  • Do you love children?
  • Are you ready to have a relationship with a former partner?
  • Are you comfortable with clutter, noise and chaos?
  • Are you ready to involve children in your life?

When answering these questions, it’s important to be honest with yourself, as they will determine whether both parties are worth investing in the relationship. There’s no point in wasting a single parent’s time – or yours – if you think kids are “okay” just on a part-time basis.

Don’t count on spontaneity

Want to invite your girlfriend on one last weekend adventure? Guess again. Spontaneity isn’t easy when you’re dating a single parent, Fagan says. And you can’t just offer to hire a nanny either. “It can make a single parent feel like you don’t like their kids. Or that you don’t understand how important children are,” she says.

Instead, remember to plan your dates ahead of time and always ask when your date is due to take care of their children. In other words, you will have to work with their schedule much more than your own.

Don’t expect peace and quiet

If you’re not used to having kids at home, then you’re probably in for a rude awakening when you visit your date. Depending on how old the kids are, don’t be surprised to see toys and snacks scattered all over the place. And then there’s the noise. (FYI, kids love to scream.)

“If you expect your home environment to be orderly and quiet, you will have problems if you suggest how to get rid of noise and chaos,” says Fagan. (I also wouldn’t recommend asking your girlfriend if they can keep kids quiet.) What’s your best strategy? Mind your own business and socialize like a gracious guest, just like in someone else’s home.

Don’t complain if they occasionally bring their kids on dates.

Sometimes well-meaning single parents bring their kids on a date, especially if finding a babysitter has been impossible and/or you’ve been dating for more than a couple of months. While you may be annoyed, failing to appreciate how much they want to spend time with their children can lead to misunderstandings.

What to do? To avoid tension, Fagan advises, don’t say anything during the date. Just go with it. In the future, make it a habit to discuss the types of dates you want to enjoy with and without the kids.

“When you’re dating a single parent, you’ll be more successful if you offer two types of dates—those that involve children (“baby dates”) and those that don’t (“adult dates”), Fagan notes. “That way you avoid misunderstandings about who you’re picking up to take out.”

Don’t Give Parenting Advice

Whether you have experience with children or not, giving unsolicited parenting advice is not a good idea. “It can be annoying and insulting for a single parent if a love interest tries to give parenting advice when they don’t have children of their own,” Fagan says. Instead, Fagan suggests listening patiently and compassionately as they discuss their parenting struggles, which will make them feel heard and acknowledged. Likewise, don’t assume the parental role of their child without first consulting with your partner. If you’re looking to build a closer bond with your partner and their children, “the best way to better understand and connect with a single parent is to ask about their children,” Fagan says. “Ask them about what they like, don’t like, what makes them happy. Ask parents what you can do for each child to help them feel more comfortable with you.”

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