Wondering How to Date with Children ?
The older we get the less likely we are to be entering relationships without our own baggage or responsibilities, whether that’s emotional healing we still haven’t done or a hoard of children from a previous relationship. If you’re about to start dating and you’re concerned with the ins and outs of doing so with children, this is what you need to know.
You need to be clearer than when you didn’t have children
Your decision to get into a new relationship is going to have some far reaching consequences and is going to affect more people than just yourself. Not only are the children going to be impacted, so too are any ex’s that are still in the picture, as well as extended family. The person you’re dating is also going to have a much different experience than if they were dating someone without children, so always be mindful of everyone involved and that they’ll inevitably come with their own perspectives and opinions.
For the above mentioned reasons you really have to be sure about what it is you’re looking for from a relationship, to minimise any misplaced expectations from those around you. This stops unnecessary confusion or damage that can arise from being unclear with yourself and other people.
Pretending you don’t have a history
Your life is indeed your own and it’s important that you live for yourself and aim to be fulfilled regardless of whether or not you have children, but the key is to not try and pretend your past doesn’t exist. Like it or not and dependant on the age of your children, your ex will have a right to know about anyone spending extended amounts of time with them. Obviously this is not something that has to be considered when you’re simply getting to know a new partner, but as things become more serious it will be inevitable.
Where possible, before you bring someone into your family fold you really want to make sure the lay of the land is smooth and everyone knows what’s happening. This means that your children know there’s a possibility one day that you’ll have a new man/woman in your life and that it doesn’t impact on the amount of love you have for them, in any way.
Children can experience mixed emotions of jealousy and uncertainty in much the same way any adult can, only their capacity for reasoning may not be as developed or fair as you would like. Let them know you’re not attempting to replace their other parent and do your utmost to keep them in the loop if things become serious. It is their life too, but don’t fall into a pattern of being the bad guy who’s moving on, the one who constantly feels the need to defend decisions. You’re the adult and a new partner is not a weapon or bargaining chip.
Know your boundaries
You’ll need to set your boundaries very early on when you have children and are dating because going with the flow isn’t always the most responsible thing to do. Deciding at the last minute to stay over, invite someone back, make introductions, or take more committed steps should involve some aforethought.
When you first get back on the scene it may be that you simply want to have some fun, or be a little bit reckless for a while and that is one hundred per cent your prerogative. Even so, take the time to work out how you’ll balance this with still being a responsible parent. Decide if you’ll only date on the weekends you don’t have the children, decide how much information about them is appropriate to share with the people you’re seeing, and be clear on the type of person they will need to be, if they have any chance of becoming a permanent fixture in your life.
While a lot of things don’t have to be decided when you initially begin dating again, we suggest this is one of those exceptions that should be thought out beforehand. Boundaries are helpful to all those involved and by having them you will quickly be able to see when they are being crossed, or when you or someone else is not respecting them. The boundaries you set can be hard or flexible but start with something, at least.
Are you ready?
Dating with or without children can be a daunting process, so rest assured you’re not the only one who could be nervous about stepping out there. You do need to check-in with yourself though and look at the timing of what you’re doing. What are you really ready for, and what are your children ready for?
Part of knowing what you’re ready for is understanding that dating is a multi-step process and that it’s not necessary to be all-in, straight away. Dipping your toes in the water is accepted, taking them out is also okay. There are some people who absolutely want nothing serious for a multitude of reasons. Perhaps because their children are number one until they go to school, graduate, or fully heal from a traumatic divorce, or whatever. There are also those who feel they have waited long enough and are now desperate to jump back into love again. What are you ready for? Where are you on this scale?
As much as your life is yours to live, once children become involved and especially if they’re young, it is a necessity to consider what their little hearts and souls need. How raw is any separation trauma, how rocky or stable is their world right now, what new situations are they just getting used to, or what are they just getting over? More conversations may be needed with multiple people. It doesn’t mean you can’t date, just that you need to do it from a place of awareness and thoughtfulness, to minimise stress and maximise good times.
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