I was in a relationship with a man who had a 10-year-old son. I was 29 years old, and the majority of my friends in Chicago were childless or childfree, whichever term you prefer. I knew that by moving back here, I was inviting many children into my day-to-day life -- and probably my love life, too. Despite all of my fears, I reconnected with this man from my youth.
Knowing that I was moving back to a small town after years of living in cities, I looked at my therapist and said: "I can't date someone who has children. And while I was in love with both the man and the kid, I was totally lost. There is nothing wrong with single or divorced parents. But my friends back home in the small town I was moving back to? He had a son with his ex-girlfriend, who I also remember from my past.You are welcome to join us if you’d like.” Show respect and allow relationships to develop at their own pace. It also shows them their feelings are important to you, keeps the communication door open, and helps children put labels on their own emotions (which is very important for young children especially). It’s tempting, but doing so taps your child’s fears that they are losing you and gives the false impression to your dating partner that you are totally available to them. As your interest in the person grows, gradually become more intentional about finding time for your significant other and your kids to get together.Tread lightly at first and continue to monitor and process everyone’s fears or concerns. Since you can’t judge lasting love by physical accoutrements or initial biochemical attractions, you need an objective measure of the qualities, attributes, and character of the person you are looking for.Overnight, I was thrown into a brave, new world -- one that involved a tween.I scoured the Internet for advice about dating people with kids. I got the same advice from multiple people: "Be yourself." OK, what next? We were on and off, and it wasn't the healthiest relationship I've ever been in.This is not always the case, but that's another blog post.