Dating someone with a kid can be very different from the typical dating scene you’re used to. For them, their priorities will be quite different than yours, so how can you be in a relationship with someone who has a kid?
Here’s how you can be in a relationship with someone who has a kid:
- Be understanding and patient.
- Don’t get jealous.
- Help out where you can.
- Understand that you might not be their priority.
- Let them set the pace.
- Be a friend to their kids, not a parent.
- Sometimes include their kid in your plans.
- Set personal boundaries and rules.
- Communicate your needs.
But those are just a few of my tips.
So below, I’ll get into all my best tips as a single dad who has dated a lot of single moms. This list is far from exhaustive, and some things will be unique to your situation only. Regardless, this is a good starting point to learn how to manage a relationship with someone who has a child.
Keep reading to find out more!
1. Assess Yourself
Before you start to look outwards to figure out what you need to learn, you first need to look inwards and decide if this is a responsibility you’re willing to take on. Dating someone with a kid can be a massive responsibility, even if they don’t introduce you to their child.
Since they have different priorities and motivations, they might handle relationships differently than you might expect. Some people choose to date only casually to keep their kids as the only priority in their lives.
On the other hand, some people date much more seriously than others since they look at dates as prospective partners who will be in close contact with their kids. People like this are warmer toward you than others, and you’ll have to adjust for this.
Regardless of the parent’s motivation, you’ll have to be prepared to handle a lot more responsibility than you might otherwise. At this point, you’ll have to be honest with yourself. Are you sure you’re ready for the responsibility?
If you are, then it’s fine to proceed. But if you aren’t, you may want to consider walking away before the relationship gets more serious. It’s worth discussing this with your partner and having an honest discussion about the path forward.
2. Be Understanding and Patient
One of the first things you’ll have to learn when dating someone with a kid is that being understanding is key. With understanding comes patience, and both are extremely important to handle the relationship properly.
There’ll be canceled plans and last minute frustration sometimes. Rather than react badly, it’s much better to understand that their child has to take precedence.
With a single parent, the problem might not always be wanting the best for their kids. Bad relationships, marriages, and previous encounters can also play a part in any reluctance on their part, so being patient and giving them time to dispel their misgivings will go a long way.
3. Don’t Get Jealous of the other co-parent
No one gives birth alone.
Every child has two parents, so if the other parent is still in the child’s life, you must be okay with that. This isn’t the time to get jealous and try to replace them. Regardless of how you feel about your partner’s ex, choosing who has access to their child falls to your partner, not you.
There might be times when you’ll have to make joint decisions or maneuver a situation together, and it’s a lot easier to do that when you’re fine with having the other parent in the picture.
4. Avoid Previous Mistakes
Your partner obviously was married or at least had a kid with someone.
However, if you’re there, it’s clear that they didn’t work out. Talking about the past can be hard, and many people avoid it, but listen and learn about their previous relationship and the biggest mistakes that happened, if they choose to share that with you.
Look out for things they didn’t like that led to the end of the previous long-term relationship, and do your best to avoid them going forward. At the same time, some people just don’t like to speak about the past, which is fine.
Be patient and allow them to speak about any previous partners if they choose to.
5. Don’t Expect to Meet the Kids for at least 3-6 Months
Meeting the children of a single parent you are in a relationship with can be a daunting experience. It is important to take your time and not rush into anything. The parent should be the one to decide when it is appropriate for you to meet their children.
It is important to remember that the parent will want to ensure that their children are comfortable with the situation before introducing them to you. This could take some time, depending on the age of the children and how long you have been in a relationship with their parent.
It is also important to remember that meeting the children should be done in a safe and comfortable environment, such as at home or in a public place. It is also important for both parties to be aware of any boundaries that may exist between them, such as not discussing certain topics or not engaging in physical contact until both parties are comfortable with it.
Overall, it is important to remember that meeting the children of a single parent should be done at an appropriate pace and with respect for everyone involved. It is also important for both parties to communicate openly and honestly about their expectations and feelings throughout this process.
6. Plan Ahead
Planning your days is one of the best ways to stay organized even outside of a relationship. When dating someone with a child, it can be the difference between failed activities and successful ones.
For example, if you’d like to take them out on a date, it’s important to let them know a day or two in advance so they can plan around it. With a child in the mix, they might need to make provisions for babysitters and feeding to make it, and these need to be sorted out in advance.
7. Respect Their Boundaries
Not every single parent will be fine with you around their kid.
In fact, many of them choose not to introduce the new romantic interest they’re dating to their kids until the relationship gets a lot more serious. The reasons vary, but the choice is theirs to make, and you have to respect that.
Along with this, other boundaries might crop up related to their child. They might not be available on specific nights or want to bring you back home after a date, preferring to go to your place instead.
There are no definite ground rules, so the best way to figure it out is to have honest conversations about boundaries. Boundaries are a healthy way to maintain your own space and lifestyle while navigating a relationship.
8. Understand That You Might Not Be Their Priority
For most parents, their children are the center of their universe regardless of whether they’re in a relationship. If you’ve only dated people without children previously, this can be a shocking change to get used to.
However, once kids get involved, soccer games, band practice, and school runs can take up a lot of time, leaving you feeling neglected. While it’s natural to feel this way, it’s a situation you’ll have to understand and make allowance for.
Raising a child is a big task, and most people can’t center other people in their lives while doing it. Rather than letting it affect your relationship, look at it as an opportunity to help out when you can and make the day a little easier for your partner.
9. Let Them Set the Pace
You’d never let anyone dictate everything that happens in a relationship. However, if you’re dating a single parent, it’s important to try your best not to rush them into decisions, especially heavy ones.
It can be frustrating if the relationship progresses slower than you’d like but letting them set the pace is a good way to gain trust and show that you understand. It will also give them the time and comfort to adjust to the new changes in their lives and yours.
Part of allowing your partner to set the pace is also being understanding about how quickly or slowly they allow you to meet their child. Try as much as possible not to force a meeting. Allow them to do it when they’re ready.
Of course, if you’re not happy with the relationship’s direction, you can always have a conversation about it. Understanding should go both ways so communicating how you’re feeling about the state of the relationship is important.
10. Be a Friend to their Kid, Not a Parent
When you finally meet the child, you need to understand that you are not their parent.
While you might get there eventually, you’re not there yet, and it’s important to act accordingly. Instead of trying to be their parent, first, be a friend and role model.
After all, you’re the new person. Unproven, untested, not yet trusted.
Substitute orders for conversations and guidance. It’s a lot easier to know more about someone when you’re being a friend instead of handing out orders. Understand that there’s an established dynamic between the child and their parents.
You’re a friend to them, not a replacement father or mother.
11. Sometimes Include Their Kid in Your Plans
It might not always be possible but try to include the child in your plans from time to time.
Plan a trip to the park or a walk by the lake and ask if they’d be fine with their child coming along. It’s important to get permission first from your partner to ensure they’re okay with the arrangement.
Once you get a positive response, present the idea to the child too, and ask if they would be interested. This step is particularly important as it’s sometimes easy to assume the child would be interested.
When planning activities, you should always remember to plan what the child would enjoy, not what you think is fun. Skipping his rule can quickly turn what should have been a fun day out into a sullen, awkward encounter.
12. Set Personal Boundaries and Rules
It can be overwhelming trying to navigate a relationship with both a parent and their child simultaneously.
It’s fine to be overwhelmed, but letting that lead to problems isn’t fine. Rather, set personal boundaries and rules to make sure that you keep yourself safe emotionally and mentally while dating.
There’s no hard and fast rule for boundaries, but the first step is usually being honest with yourself and your partner. If you’re uncomfortable with how things are, speak about it and establish boundaries that you’re comfortable with.
Boundaries come in many forms, and one of them might be you not being ready to meet the child of the person you’re dating. If this happens, communicate this with them so they can tell you how they feel about it.
This issue can understandably be a deal-breaker for some people, but others might also be more lenient and give you time. Regardless, it’s best to talk about it first rather than ignore the problem.
13. Communicate Your Needs
I touched on it earlier, but I’d like to reiterate that communicating your needs should always be important to you.
It can be easy to slip from being there for your partner to harming yourself by trying to ignore your needs. As necessary as it might sometimes seem to keep your needs on the back burner when there are other things to consider, it’s not sustainable.
While your needs can’t always come first, they’d also not come last all the time. You’ll eventually start to feel resentful and unheard in the relationship. When this happens, the relationship could develop significant problems.
Rather than allowing things to get that bad, be proactive. Try to keep an open communication channel as much as possible so that your needs are always being heard.
14. Know When To Walk Away
If you ever get to a point where you’re no longer happy or satisfied in the relationship, it might be time to walk away. Take a moment to self-assess and be honest with yourself. Do you see the relationship going forward? Are you ready to take things further?
Ask yourself difficult questions and answer them honestly. If you eventually feel like the relationship has run its course, you need to have an open conversation with your partner. Tell them how you’re feeling and let them know that you’d like to separate.
Breakups are hard. However, they are necessary. No matter how much you prepare or try, you might just not be able to handle a relationship with someone that has a child, and that’s fine. You must communicate this rather than dragging it out.
The longer you stay there, the more time you give the kid and their parents to get used to you, and this can make it hurt more if you choose to walk away.
15. Earn The Trust of Both Parent and Child
If you are dating a single parent, it is important to earn the trust of both the parent and their child.
The best way to do this is to be patient and understanding. Show that you are reliable and trustworthy by being consistent in your actions. Make sure that you keep your promises and follow through on any commitments you make.
Be respectful of your partner’s children and the time they spend together.
Show that you understand the importance of their relationship by not intruding or trying to take over parenting duties. Instead, offer to help out in small ways such as running errands or helping with chores around the house.
Be honest with both the parent and their child about your intentions. Let them know that you care about them both and want to build a strong relationship with them both. Show them that you are willing to listen and be there for them when they need it most.
Finally, be patient as trust takes time to build.
Don’t expect immediate results but instead focus on building a strong foundation of trust over time through consistent actions and communication. With patience, understanding, and respect, you can earn the trust of both a single parent and their child.
16. Don’t Take Things Too Personally
When a single parent you are dating or their child takes you for granted or is resistant to your being there, it can be difficult not to take it personally.
It is important to remember that this is a process and that it takes time for people to adjust to new relationships. It is also important to remember that the child may be feeling insecure about the changes in their life and may be acting out as a result.
It is important to remain patient and understanding during this time.
Showing love and support can go a long way in helping the child feel more comfortable with you being around. It is also important to set boundaries and communicate your expectations clearly so that everyone involved knows what is expected of them.
Finally, it is important to remember that you cannot control how someone else feels or behaves, but you can control how you react.
Taking a step back and focusing on yourself can help keep things in perspective and remind you that this situation does not define who you are as a person. With patience, understanding, and self-care, it is possible to navigate these situations without taking things too personally.
17. Don’t Be Jealous of the Child’s Relationship With the Person You’re Dating
It can be difficult to not feel jealous when your partner’s child is their top priority. However, it is important to remember that your partner loves you and wants to make sure their child is taken care of.
Here are some tips on how to manage these feelings:
First, try to focus on the positive aspects of the situation. Your partner’s love for their child is a beautiful thing and should be celebrated. It can also be helpful to think about how you would want someone else to treat your own children if you had them.
Second, try to find ways to connect with the child. Showing interest in their hobbies or activities can help build a bond between you and the child, which can help reduce any feelings of jealousy.
Ultimately you want a good relationship with the kid. But remember the person you are dating is one of the most important people in their life. Don’t expect to measure up anytime soon.
Finally, talk openly with your partner about how you’re feeling.
Communication is key in any relationship and it’s important that both parties feel heard and understood. If there are any issues that need addressing, it’s best to do so in a respectful manner so that everyone involved feels comfortable and respected.
18. Keep a Balanced Social Life
Having an active social life is important when dating a single parent. This is because they won’t always be available to spend time with you. They have to prioritize their children and their needs first, so it’s important to understand that and not take it personally.
Don’t just sit around waiting for them!
It’s also important to have your own needs, hobbies, and interests that you can pursue when your partner isn’t available. This will help keep you busy and give you something to look forward to when they are able to spend time with you. It’s also a great way to meet new people and make new friends, which can help enrich your life in many ways.
Finally, having an active social life can help keep the relationship fresh and exciting.
It can provide opportunities for new experiences that you can share with your partner, which can help strengthen the bond between the two of you. So don’t be afraid to get out there and explore the world around you!
19. Help Out Where You Can
Acts of service are one of the best ways to express yourself to someone you love. Gifts and intimacy have their place, too but showing someone you care by taking some of the load off their shoulders is a very good way to help them.
Navigating life is difficult enough before you add a kid into the equation. Once children are involved, they can take up so much of your time that you barely have any more for yourself. Helping your partner with a few things that might clear up sometime will give them more breathing room.
The good thing about this is that you can even use that free time to plan an activity together! That said, don’t help just because you want some alone time. It should be a benefit, not a goal.
20. Don’t Be Worried if the Child is Resentful of You for Being There Instead of the Other Co-Parent
Resentment from the child of a single parent can be difficult to handle.
Even if you came along long after the split between the child’s parents, it’s natural for them to see you as a threat, intruder, or at least an outsider. Even if the split between the kid’s parents was an amicable divorce, the destruction of the family unit is a lot for a child to process.
It is important to remember that the child may be feeling a range of emotions, including anger, sadness, and confusion. It is important to be understanding and patient with them.
The most important thing is to listen to their feelings without judgment and provide a safe space for them to express themselves. Acknowledge their feelings and let them know that it is okay to feel the way they do. Showing empathy can help them feel heard and understood.
It is also important to set boundaries with the child. Let them know that while you are there for them, you are not there to replace their parent or take on a parental role in their life. Respect their need for space and privacy when needed.
Finally, it is important to remember that it takes time for healing and understanding. Be patient with the process and don’t expect immediate results. Showing love and support can go a long way in helping the child cope with their emotions over time.
21. Understand that Sex May Be Less Frequent
Sex may be a big dead in a healthy relationship, but dating a single mom or dad can have an impact on having a sex life when they have a young child at home.
It is also important to consider the parent’s comfort level with having a sex life while their child is in the home. Some parents may feel uncomfortable with this and may need time to adjust before introducing their partner into their home. Others may never want to have sex with their kids at home.
It is important for both partners to be respectful of each other’s boundaries and feelings in this situation. So expect the sex to be less frequent than if you were dating a non-parent.
And understand that if you are having sex at their house when their child is at home, even with the best intentions, there is always the possibility of it getting interrupted. Learn to be accepting of that possibility and don’t stress over it or get angry.
These are important questions to ask. But a romantic relationship with a single parent can also be incredibly rewarding!
Dating someone with a child for the first time is a lot different and requires you to be mature and patient to handle it properly. Before getting into it, it’s important to ask yourself if you’re ready to handle everything that comes with it.
When entering a new relationship with a single parent, always consider their child and what they need. Sometimes, you have to step back and understand that the kid takes precedence. Other times, you might need to step in to help.
Patience and developing a thick skin are the key to making things work with your new partner. But the good news is this isn’t rocket science (although sometimes it feels like it).