Dating a man with kids can be intimidating, whether or not you have any of your own. Instead of building one relationship, which can be tricky enough, you’re building two or more relationships at the same time. And the hardest part can be that the kids may not want a relationship with you if they see you as competition for their father’s time or think you’re trying to take the place of their mother. With time and patience, though, it is definitely possible to build healthy relationships with your boyfriend’s kids.
Act slowly. It may take a while before your boyfriend decides your relationship is serious enough for you to meet his kids, and even when you do meet them, they might not warm up to you right away. Remember that it might be hard for them to see their father dating someone new, or they may have seen other women come and go and therefore be afraid to get attached to you. Allow the kids to spend as much time with you as they want, and don’t take it personally if they appear disinterested at first. Invite them to get to know you on their own terms.
Show that you’re paying attention. Even if the kids haven’t become friends with you yet, you’re likely to hear a lot about them from your boyfriend, so take mental notes on their interests and hobbies. Pay attention to what they like to watch on TV, to their favorite toys, and to the books they read. Try talking to the kids about these subjects. If a birthday or special occasion comes up, you can give a gift that reflects your knowledge of their interests.
Make special time for you and the kids. Developing a relationship with the kids can be done when you and your boyfriend hang out with them together, but a little extra time goes a long way. After all, you have to show the kids that you’re genuinely invested in getting to know them and not just their father. Knowing their interests comes in handy here, as you can invite them to do activities they like. In a 2007 article for the “New York Amsterdam News,” then-13-year-old Myles Miller wrote that his relationship with his mom’s boyfriend developed because he made the effort to do things with Myles that he enjoyed. Invite the kids out for some fun with just you, and you’ll make them feel special.
Be open and honest with them. Sit down with your boyfriend’s kids, and have an honest conversation with them about your intentions in dating their father and getting to know them. Listen to what they have to say, too, and make it clear that they can talk to you about anything. Keeping the lines of communication open helps to develop healthy relationships.
- New York Amsterdam News; Kids Get Used to Parents Dating; Samantha Akwei et al.
- HelpGuide: Guide to Step-Parenting & Blended Families
Emma Wells has been writing professionally since 2004. She is also a writing instructor, editor and former elementary school teacher. She has a Master's degree in writing and a Bachelor of Arts in English and anthropology. Her creative work has been published in several small literary magazines.