22 Things Relationship Experts Want You to Know About Dating Someone With Kids

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Dating can be tricky enough with two people involved. When you add a kid (or kids) and a possible co-parent to the situation, things can get even trickier. While dating parents can ultimately be a rewarding thing, it can also take some time to get used to. “Dating someone with kids requires flexibility, understanding, and patience,” explains licensed psychologist Rachel Needle, PsyD. For those who don’t have children of their own, it can be a challenge to get used to accommodating your partner’s schedule and co-parenting timetable, explains co-parenting coach and therapist Aurisha Smolarski, LMFT.

Experts In This Article

To be sure, someone having kids from a prior relationship isn’t a relationship red flag in and of itself, and plenty of people with kids have fulfilling relationships while juggling co-parenting and split schedules. This can mean not seeing your date as often as you’d like, and sometimes (correctly) feeling as if you’re not being prioritized, Smolarski adds. You might notice that phone calls with your partner end abruptly when their kids get home, says psychotherapist Toni Teixeira, LCSW.

If you’re not used to dating someone with kids, this might be less attention than you’re used to, but it’s an inevitable part of the package. But dating someone with kids can also be a best-of-both-worlds scenario for certain people. You might get an opportunity to adopt or inherit a family, as licensed mental health counselor Alfonso Ferguson, PhD, and faculty member at Saybrook University says. Not to mention the opportunity to create a blended family for those with kids of their own. “When both partners have children who are similar ages, it can be a great experience all around,” says Teixeira, adding that “creating an environment that shows there is an abundance of love and togetherness can teach kids that they don’t have to take sides and that they get the bonus of having more people in their life who love them.”

“When both partners have children who are similar ages, it can be a great experience all around.”—Toni Teixeira, LCSW

Here, we spoke to dating and relationship experts to explain everything you need to know before dating someone with kids.

How do I handle being in a relationship with someone who has a child?

Dating someone with kids definitely comes with its own unique set of challenges, but thankfully with the guidance of experts, they don’t have to be anything too far out of left field. Here, we explain some helpful tips and advice for dating dos and don’ts of dating someone with kids.

Dos for dating someone with kids

1. Do respect your partner’s primary role as a parent

“If they say they need to do something for their children, show that you understand this is important for them,” explains Teixeira.

2. Do be flexible

“Whenever kids are involved, flexibility will be paramount,” says Smolarski. “Someone who shares custody will prioritize their kids (or should), and if you can accept that, it will greatly increase the chances of [your] relationship working out.

3. Do be a supporter and not a divider

Your partner may have an ongoing relationship with their co-parent and it’s in everyone’s best interest to be as accepting as possible, Smolarski adds. The relationship the child has with both their parents is so important and pre-dates your involvement in entering their existing family system.

4. Do be patient

Good things take time. “Be patient with building your relationship with your partner and your partner’s children,” Ferguson explains. Respect any boundaries they may have for introducing new partners to their kids and try not to rush things.

5. Do respect your partner’s parenting style

“Do not try to jump in, especially at the beginning,” says Dr. Needle. Be open to new parenting and partner experiences, Dr. Ferguson adds. How you’d do something is not necessarily how your partner might and that’s okay! It’s their kid.

Don'ts for dating someone with kids

1. Don't take it personally

If your date has to be rescheduled or canceled due to a sick kid or schedule change. “It’s not about you,” in these instances, Smolarski explains. Instead, be supportive and understanding if you can. “Your support will be a relief to them,” Smolarski adds. No one likes to feel guilt for canceling plans, even without kids in the picture.

2. Don't be jealous of their co-parent

Your partner “will speak to their co-parent regularly about their kid. That’s normal and should not be a threat to you. If you are threatened by the co-parent and you try to disrupt that relationship, you are only hurting the child,” Smolarski says.

3. Don't compete with their kid

“You are not in competition with your date’s child. If you see yourself this way, you will only be putting a barrier between getting closer to your partner and the child will sense it a mile away,” Smolarski says.

4. Don't expect undivided attention from your partner while the kids are around

“This will only make your partner feel like you are another kid to take care of. It’s important to act like another grown up in the relationship,” Teixeira says. If you’re dating someone with a kid and feeling left out, Teixeira recommends getting a hobby so you don’t feel slighted when your partner has to do things for their kids.

Is it hard to date someone with kids?

Not necessarily! The resounding advice for dating someone with kids is communication, communication, communication, says sexologist Jess O’Reilly, PhD. With that said, here are four important questions you’ll want to ask yourself and your partner before dating someone with kids.

1. Do you want to be in a relationship with someone who has kids?

First things first. Really, truly ask yourself if you personally want or think it’s worth dating someone with a kid. “If you are genuinely not interested in your partner’s kids or do not want to be in a relationship with someone with kids, leave the relationship,” Teixeira says, adding that it is best to move on sooner rather than later if this is the case.

If you are not interested in dating someone with kids, that’s fine. You deserve to be happy, and so do your partner and your partner’s kids. No child wants to feel like their mere existence is a burden to their parent’s happiness. There are plenty of dating apps for single parents and other single parents or people open to kids who may be a better fit.

2. How involved is your partner with their kids, and how much do they want you to be involved, too?

"Dating someone with kids is going to look different for everyone because not every parent has the same relationship with their kids," says Dr. O'Reilly. "One parent may see their kids every single day, while another person only sees them on holidays. One big question to ask early on is how big of a role that person plays in their kids' lives."

Dr. O'Reilly says it's important to ask how big of a role your potential partner is expecting you to play in their kids' lives. "Do they expect you to take on an active parenting role? Will you be more like the fun aunt? Do they want to date casually and not have you in [their kids'] lives at all?" It's important that both people are on the same page early on so no conflicts around the expectations arise later, when feelings are deeper, Dr. O’Reilly explains.

3. Are your lifestyles compatible?

Dr. O’Reilly reiterates that because parents play such varying roles in their kids' lives—with some being more active and present than others, depending on the kids' age and custody arrangements—there isn't one specific type of lifestyle that has to become "your lifestyle" if you decide to move forward with the relationship, but it is something to be aware of.

4. Is there another parent in the picture, and what is the dynamic like?

If another parent is involved, Dr. O'Reilly says it's worth it to think about navigating that relationship as well. "That means you have to take into account that they will likely be in the picture as well and you have to be able to have reasonable discussions." AKA now is not the time or place to feel jealous if your partner’s ex is around more than you thought since the kids, of course, come first.

Is it worth dating someone with a kid?

Yes, dating someone with kids can be really rewarding if you keep an open mind. We asked our experts to lay out some of the pros and cons of dating someone with kids.

Pros of dating someone with a kid

It can be rewarding to spend time and form relationships with the leaders of tomorrow. Having some influence on future adults can definitely make for a rewarding experience for all involved, Dr. Ferguson says. We all remember that one cool teacher, babysitter, or family friend who somehow shaped us when we were little. Getting to be that for someone else? It doesn’t get much better than that.

For those with kids of their own, you can also get the chance to create a blended family, Teixeira adds. If both of you have only children, they can get to know what it’s like to have siblings.

Cons of dating someone with a kid

It can be challenging to logistically and mentally consider more than yourself and your partner when making decisions or plans. Dr. Ferguson notes that things like dinner plans, date ideas, and vacations or trips may now require more planning and strategizing in order to include your partner’s kids and potentially their co-parent, too.

You may have to start focusing more on quality rather than quantity when it comes to dates. “Children are going to cut into the quantity of time, for sure,” says Teixeira. Instead, focus on the quality of time you get to spend with your partner.

When should you meet your partner’s kids?

When you meet your partner's kids is a matter of both personal choice and consideration, Teixeira explains. She suggests having your partner talk to friends and family who know the kids, as well as a therapist for guidance, if possible. If your partner has a good relationship with their ex, they should feel free to talk to them about it as well.

There is also nothing wrong with waiting a while to meet your partner’s kids. “I would err on the side of waiting, because you can’t take it back once the kids have met your new partner,” Teixeira adds.

Whatever you do, don’t pressure your partner into meeting their kids too soon. “You can’t decide for your partner if the kids are ‘old enough’ or if enough time has passed after the divorce or separation. [It’s a] delicate time for kids,” Teixeira says. “A 13 year-old may seem old enough to handle a parent dating, but if their parent is newly separated and dating in a couple of months, meeting a partner is probably too soon. Timing is everything,” she says. Make sure the priority here is the well-being of the kids, and you're not just meeting them for the sake of the relationship moving along.

How should you meet your partner’s kids?

How you meet your partner's kids will "vary from couple to couple, but it really depends on the relationship the parent has with the kids and how old the kids are," Dr. O'Reilly says. "To me, it's more important for the parent to be honest with the kids than when the person they're dating meets them," she says.

Dr. O'Reilly says that kids—of all ages—are intuitive and smart: They don't like being tricked or lied to. If the parent introduces someone as "just a colleague" but then later it's apparent you're dating, the kids are going to feel tricked and that isn't good for the relationships between everyone involved, she explains. "What the parent can do is tell their kids, 'I'm starting to date' or 'I'm looking for a companion,' so that way they aren't blindsided later on."

What are the boundaries when dating someone with a child?

“Boundaries are so important in a dating relationship where there are kids,” Teixeira says. Aside from the big one of when to meet the kids, keep the following in mind.

What information gets shared with the kid(s)

“You might know things about your partner’s previous relationship. Don’t assume the kids know and don’t share it. You don’t want to bad-mouth your partner’s ex,” says Teixeira. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, stay neutral. Even if your partner bad-mouths their ex in front of the kids, don’t join in,” she adds. Doing so can be very damaging to everyone involved.

How much support or involvement is expected from you

Unless your partner explicitly asks for parenting advice, don’t offer any or try to discipline their kid for them. “Listen to [your partner] if they do come up with issues or concerns that they are dealing with, and only offer advice if they ask you for it,” Smolarski says. Otherwise, remember that you are not an automatic parental figure, but more of a support for the person you are dating, she adds.

How you will continue to make time for each other

While the well-being of the kids definitely should come first for your partner as a parent, you and your partner should be able to balance things so there’s still quality time for the two of you. “You also need to feel like your needs are incorporated and cared for in the relationship,” says Smolarski. Ultimately, dating someone with kids is just like any other romantic relationship, just with a few additional boundaries to note.

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