5-Steps for Dating with Children

IMG_2469Ready to enter the dating pool? When Birdy and I met, we had a lot of unanswered questions about the “right” way to start our relationship. Read on for some tips & guidelines that worked for us.

”Okay,” you may be thinking, “I’m in my 30’s with kids and baggage, this doesn’t look good.”

Well guess what, most of us are in the same boat! We’re all hard on ourselves, focusing on our weaknesses, and lowering our expectations. Think of it this way, won’t many of your potential mates be in a similar state? I was sure she’d have nothing to do with me, boy was I wrong!IMG_2474

Yes, dating another single parent can be complicated & messy, we each have our own unique set of hurdles. Here’s how Birdy and I tackled them.

1.) No Kid Exposure (at first)

I discovered that dating in my 30’s was a little more business like. Before I got to know the person, I had to see if we lined up on the ‘big things’ in life. Religion, politics, finance, smoking, parenting, drugs, etc. We didn’t have to agree on everything, but need to know and respect the other person’s view. Emails IMG_2476were great for being brutally honest when discussing delicate subjects. Phone calls (after bed-time) helped us feel each other out on more emotional topics, and the rare in-person date was a special treat to be with them.

2.) Be Creative, Be Patient

Easier said than done, right? Your life can be crazy, so is theirs. Finding time to spend together will be difficult. If you have to go weeks (or a month) without a date, how will you continue to connect? Beyond emails & phone calls, you may want to try:IMG_1837

  • Morning coffee (can’t workout the timing? have one deliver)
  • Lunch break
  • Hug break:  This worked for us, when she had an errand to run, she’d check to see  if I was available. I’d take my 10 min. break (if I could) and meet her nearby for a quick hug.

IMG_0447Resist the urge to have spiraling negative thoughts every time you can’t connect for a few days. It seemed like every weekend I had my kids, by the end I was starting to doubt if she was really “in to me.” She’s busy too, has plenty on her plate, and was just giving me the space I needed to be a good parent.

3.) Meet the kids informally

My kids had no idea I was dating. One night TBear expressed his concern about me being alone or finding someone. “Don’t you worry,” I said, “I’ve dated some nice ladies, and when I find a good one, and it’s serious, you’ll get to meet them.” (I went through 3 girlfriends over a period of 6 years for someone to earn that opportunity.) It took several months before we were at this stage.IMG_0295

Non-Contact Opportunities are times when kids can be around the other adult informally. Maybe it’s a class you both go to, school events, etc. The point here, is that the kids aren’t “meeting the boy/girlfriend” they’re just tagging along to something. While my kids are a bit older, and were ready for that, Birdy’s kids had “seen me around” several times. We went to a parenting class together, which gave me a little exposure to the kids, while also having a healthy discussion on parenting styles & techniques.

IMG_17154.) Introduce the new adult, without their kids

Parenting Plans & schedules can be a real pain. In my case, I only had 1 weekend a month without kids, so that’s when I would start doing things with Birdy & her kids. I would research things that are going on in the community that weekend, and we’d make a day of it. She would take times when her kids were visiting to meet with my kids too. (We had to use a babysitter from time-to-time.)

This allowed our kids to get to know & bond with the new person without interference from other kids’ personalities. This also prevents (initially) hard feelings from kids feeling left out or competing for attention.

5.) Plan Two-Family EventsIMG_2143

Now that each set of kids are (more or less) comfortable with the other adult, it’s time to meet each other. This could be a trip to the zoo, fishing, hiking, museum, whatever! We started small, with a mushrooming day.

About 6 months into the relationship, we went camping. Each family brought their gear and slept in separate tents, but we got to share time and meals over a weekend, observing how the kids got along, and bonding over some mutual activities. This was NOT popular with all the kids, but it wasn’t optional. They survived, found they could have some fun, and were more comfortable doing frequent, small activities together.

We’ve been dating for over a year now, and our kids are practically pushing us to get married and live “Happily Ever After.” As I’m sure you can relate, life isn’t always that simple. Still, our future looks bright. Is it the ‘right’ way to do thing? I don’t know, but I hope these tips work well for others too!

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2 responses to “5-Steps for Dating with Children

  1. oh… That is a great idea! I think I can apply it to my children now! Thank for your sharing!

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