Dating a single parent comes with a rule book all its own. Here’s a selection of the most common things you should consider when embarking on a relationship with someone with kids.
Don’t Meet the Kids Too Soon
Don’t be offended if your date doesn’t want to introduce you to his or her kids early in the courtship. Kids are resilient, yes, but they don’t need a steady stream of strangers skulking through their homes.
Wait and see how the relationship progresses before meeting any dependents.
Do Be Understanding
On the plus side, single parents are organized, reliable and are usually looking for a stable relationship. On the downside, you won’t ever be the center of their universe and will have to adapt pretty quickly to things like sick children, tantrums and rescheduled date nights. That being said, dating someone with kids really does have the potential to add something new and special to your life.
Don’t Try to Win the Kids Over
Buying gifts to try to impress kids is a big no-no. Instead, try to show an interest in what they are reading or watching on TV, or a particular toy they are playing with. Don’t make a big deal, just make a passing comment; you’ll soon see if they are ready to acknowledge you. Remember, they might be small, but kids are smart.
Do Be Flexible
When dating a yummy mummy or a spunky single dad, flexibility becomes a keyword in your vocabulary. Forget spontaneity (and forget everything you’ve ever known about organizing a date).
A hot date with a solo parent requires precision planning. Things you’ll need to consider include: meal times, nap times, homework assignments, booking the babysitter and not keeping Mummy or Daddy out too late.
Don’t Overdo Public Displays of Affection
Naturally you’ll have feelings of affection and intimacy that you’d like to share with your new partner; you are two adults, after all. But when dating a single parent, care must be exercised to ensure that you are not offending any little eyes (and ears) with your amorous behavior.
Kids may react strongly to the sight of another man or woman kissing Mommy or Daddy. Be sensitive to this, especially in the beginning when youngsters are still adjusting to the relationship.
Do Be Sensitive
Even the youngest of kids will notice the way their Mum or Dad is looking at you. Older kids might surmise that you are competing for the attention (and affection) of their mother or father. For some kids this is a trigger for attention-seeking behavior, but don’t let this throw you or case you to react defensively.
It’s up to the parent concerned to maintain a healthy relationship with their kids when entering a new relationship.
Don’t Sleep Over
Depending on the age of the kids, seeing someone other than one of their own parents emerging bleary-eyed from the bedroom on Sunday morning can be a little unnerving. “Who is this new person in our home, sleeping in the same bed with my mommy/daddy?” The onus is on the parent to gradually introduce their new partner to their children.
Bonding over Coco Puffs at the breakfast table is not an ideal first meeting.
Do Be Considerate
Lots of single parents operate on pretty lean household budgets, and dating can be a costly pursuit. Movie tickets, drinks, dinner; your ‘great night out’ can quickly amount to the weekly grocery bill of a sole parent. Be conscious of putting your date in a tricky financial position, and opt for low-cost dates peppered with the odd splurge.
Offering to split the cost of a babysitter is a nice gesture, too.
Don’t Interfere with Parenting Matters
For some the line is clear: the boyfriend/girlfriend will not be involved in the raising of the children. But for others, the line is not so clear, and some people’s natural instinct to guide, advise and chastise takes over. One of the golden rules for dating a single parent is to not criticize his or her parenting style — especially not in front of the children.
This undermines the parent’s authority and creates unnecessary tension in the home.
Don’t Criticize the Ex
When you’re dating a single parent, an ex-husband/wife/partner is never too far away. Sometimes their split was amicable and your partner’s ex is tolerant and accepting of your new relationship. Sometimes not.
And while your partner can call his or her ex every name under the sun, you don’t have that luxury. No matter how you feel about them.