How Do You Date When You Have Children?

This is a question many of us have and is not exclusive to Big Girls. Dating is very hard when you have children. Good parents make no move or decision, no matter how minor,  without first thinking “how will this affect my kids?”.  Dating is even tougher when you have children and you have experienced abuse in your own life.

My next question came to me via Facebook:

Here’s my question / dilemma: I have been avoiding dating or getting serious with someone for quite some time. I am very paranoid of someone mistreating my children. I was mistreated by my step-mother and have witnessed many others suffer the fate of being mistreated by a parent’s significant other.

All the news stories of children being abused or killed by mom’s boyfriend adds fuel to the fire. I met a great guy a year ago, but once he told me that he used to spank his step-child my heart sank. It was something he fought about with his ex-wife. He has never spanked his child. I don’t think he is a child abuser, but there is no way I would ever feel comfortable having my children around him because of this. For the record I never let anyone meet my children on the rare occasion I do date someone. Am I being too paranoid or should I listen to my instincts about this person?

My child has special needs and it takes a very special person to understand he does not act out to simply be “bad”.

There’s a lot to cover there but I will start off by saying ALWAYS listen to your instincts. If you sense something is off, someone sent your antennae up don’t ignore it. News story after tragic news story is filled with people, who, ignored red flags.

That is not to say you should give up living while you have young children, not at all.  There are many very happy blended families living wonderful lives. The key is to not rush into anything.  Don’t bring a new person home to meet your kids for at least 6 months into the relationship. Give yourself time to know the real person. Everyone puts on their best face in the beginning of any relationship, you need time to know the real person warts and all. Once you feel you know them, perhaps after you’ve had some disagreements…that’s when you introduce them to your children. Don’t move them in right away. Your children need time to get to know them and they need time to get to know your kids. You may be in love but your kids are not and your new person does not yet love them.

While your children are young, their needs and wishes come first. If they cannot accept the person you love then you must take that as a strong indicator that this may not be the right person for all of you.  Single parents cannot date the way they did before, they are now a unit and it really is all or nothing, until the children are grown.

When you have Special Needs children, it is even MORE important that you date slowly. Your new person must learn all they can about your child’s particular needs so they can truly understand what they may be getting themselves into. Your Special Needs child will also need more time to adapt to any changes you propose to make.

You need to establish ground rules with any future person about how the children are to be treated. If you are against spanking, it must be made clear and the reasons why must be clearly outlined.  You can’t marry someone and then make it impossible for them to have a relationship with your children, by tying their hands completely when it comes to discipline. You can’t set up a scenario where your new mate is disrespected but you don’t want to put your children at risk either. Being a Step-parent is not an easy task, don’t make it harder. If you don’t feel you could ever trust another human being with the care and welfare of your children, then don’t date someone beyond casual. Don’t put yourself or someone else in a position to develop feelings for you. That would not be fair.  Be honest up front that you are not looking for a relationship, that you will never allow yourself to be in one.

There are many, many amazingly loving blended families. My children are in two. I remarried and my ex-husband remarried. Two of my sons have both a Stepmom and a Stepdad. It works for us, my boys are loved by both of their Stepparents unconditionally. Two of my three sons are Autistic and one of my Autistic sons by my ex-husband. So, I am speaking from a place of experience when I address you in terms of having Special Needs children. I was you.

When I met my husband, I had all the same fears that you have. I was very upfront when I started dating him and he asked me many questions about Autism. He took a very avid interest in learning all he could about the condition. He even told me things I hadn’t heard of in regards to Autism. My son was only 3 at the time, the diagnosis just occurred, I was newly divorced and scared about letting anyone in. I had dated and dropped 4 or 5 men without any of them having even breathed the same air as my children. When I knew it was right, I proceeded slowly and the rest is history. I’ve been with my husband nearly 7 years and we are approaching our 5th wedding anniversary this October.

It can happen, if you wish but it’s not an easy road. Just remember this, your children’s needs come before yours and if a new person in your life can’t meet that expectation, then they can’t be in your life.

Good luck!

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