If you choose to date a person with children, kudos to you! Many people, mostly younger daters, refuse to go down this road. It is a hard game to figure out, yet to win. It is complex, there are many factors, many people involved and sometimes, a crap-load of drama! BUT if you are a brave heart and meet someone amazing who has children, be open to the possible problems and maybe I can help you come up with some possible solutions to common mishaps. Here is a general outline to how I think things should be done to work out best for the daters AND the child or children involved.
1. Don’t meet kids ASAP. Some people like to include their kids on the first or second date. This concept sounds so strange to me. But in general, parents should be protective of their children. I feel especially strong about this regarding children’s who’s parents have just split and their world is a little shaken. I would recommend waiting at least a month before introducing the kids. Give yourselves time, as grown-ups, to get acquainted with one another and see if there’s even more chemistry there than just surface level.
2. Ask about their parenting style. Too many relationships are ended once people have children together. It is as if children are this huge continental divide. It is extremely important to either be on the same page on parenting as your partner, or close to it, or give them their due respect to do whatever they choose. So I think in general conversation with a new person, you can speak to them about their kids, your kids and figure out how they like to handle things and see if it is similar to your style or your opinion.
3. Ask about the kids. Please don’t do this if you don’t give a crap! If you have no interest in children, having children, or any little monkey for that matter…don’t date a parent. There is no need in wasting people’s lives just because you are interested in the individual. If they are a parent, they come closely tied to that child, no matter what. So if not, take a hike. If you genuinely care, please do, talk about the child or children and figure out how the kids are. Be interested, don’t fake it!
4. Ask about the other parent. It is wise to make vague conversation about the ex or other parent. It is good to know if they have no communication with the child, communication but no presence, visitation, in jail, schizophrenic, etc. Just a good start, lay some ground questions, to give you an idea on how much their child gets out of each parent. And most importantly, if the other parent is present in the child’s life, it is only respectful to act like an ADULT and show some respect for and to them.
If it gets a little more serious or committed…or survives…
5. Think of how the kids will interact. (This only applies if both dating parties have a child or children.) If so, at this point you would ask yourself if they will all get along. Is one quiet and the other a bully? Are two of them both into Karate? Are there common hobbies as well as habits? These things will play a critical role in estimating if the children will get along. IF the children do NOT get along, this will strongly dampen and even destroy a relationship. So take this under strong advisement and put a lot weight into how the children interact.
6. How long should you wait to introduce kids or meet thier kids? I would say no sooner than a month out. If you want to be overly concerned about it and cautious, I think 3 months tops. The reason I wouldn’t go over 3 months if because; what if all the kids hate each other but you have already started falling for the person and it deeply saddens you that the kids can’t get along? You should figure out that tiny detail BEFORE you fall for someone and have invested yourself!
7. Think first! Take into consideration that your new partner’s children are just that, children. They are tiny adults with whole souls, huge brains, and they are full of complex emotions just as adults are. Do not mistake them for being too dumb to care what’s going on around them. Children are very smart and pick up on their atmosphere, be it good or bad. So when meeting someone’s children for the first time, remember they have been through a divorce, separation, loss of a parent, no other parent, etc. So stop and give them a chance with open-mindedness and equal respect.
8. Meeting kids. The perfect scenario to introduce one partner’s kids to another partner’s kids is at a city park! The adults can hang out on the bench and talk adult talk or just watch the kids together. The children all get to be in a comfortable environment, but with new kids. They get to play solo or migrate towards one another. As a parent, you can observe your children’s behavior in this setting and see how comfortable or uncomfortable they are with the other kids. If only one party has kids, then a good meetup would be to do hang-out time at the house. Order a pizza, put in a movie, and invite the new girlfriend or boyfriend over. Let the children remain in a comfortable, safe environment, introduce them, and just let it go. In this setting the kids are not required to interact with the other adult, but you will see if they do gravitate towards them or shy away.