Man and woman with two children on beach as symbol for dating with kids

How to Start Dating with Kids and Find New Love

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by eharmony Editorial Team - June 21, 2024

We all know that dating with kids can sometimes feel like a minefield. This is because your children’s needs are mercurial and change with the weather, where it feels like the demands of the workplace have a slightly more rigid structure to plan around.

Plus, the elephant in the room, partners have to accept they won’t be the top emotional priority with you. This is why it can also be challenging for the other person dating someone with kids. But there are ways to maintain a healthy relationship with some compromises and go on to actively thrive as a family. 

Why dating with kids can often feel challenging

It’s no secret to any parent exploring the modern dating scene that it can come with a fair share of obstacles to work through, depending on your situation. Let’s explore some of the most common challenges when it comes to dating with kids.

Time is your scarcest resource

There are two things a TV commercial or streaming ad for a washing detergent will tell you, raising kids is a full-time job and we all apparently roll around in indelible berries and sauces all day in white polos. So how do you find time to date? The slightly blunt answer is you make the time.

Some stereotypes indicate that if you’re dating a man with kids, they’re not as good at multitasking, and therefore managing an active dating life but research has shown we’re about equally as good at it1. So learn to sacrifice something and make some space in your calendar without sacrificing your personal life. 

Red flags can no longer be ignored

We tend to have a healthy tolerance for certain red flags when we’re dating because we instinctively believe people can change and some hormones are also to blame. But when children are in the picture, the risk goes way up. You may be emotionally equipped for a toxic partner, but your kids certainly aren’t.

This isn’t to say you can’t gamble on some things but it’s also important to remember there are bigger costs for being wrong now.

Dating with kids requires childcare arrangements

Depending on the age of your children or whether you have support structures like local parents and siblings that help with occasional childcare, dates can’t really be a spur-of-the-moment thing. And not every single parent is blessed with these.

Finding an alternative not only requires some notice but it becomes an added financial factor in dating. Here’s a list2 of babysitting rates based on US states. Few veer far from $15 per hour.

Introducing a new potential partner

It’s important to be careful when it comes to the question “How long should you date, before introducing a new partner to your kids?”. And for good reason. Children can be very sensitive about disturbances to their domestic environment, particularly if it has already been disturbed by a previous separation.

Worse, they could become attached, which can be difficult if your relationship doesn’t work out. So it’s important to be discerning when evaluating the partners who are ready to meet your children. Ensure it’s a solid and stable relationship.

It can feel overwhelming

Dating isn’t just wearing two hats. You already have several roles: mother/father, breadwinner, arranger of more than one life, occasionally the other parent and then, finally a romantic being. It seems odd that something so essential should fall so far down the priority list, but such is a parent’s tendency towards self-sacrifice.

This can feel like a lot so it’s important to take your time and learn to adjust to allowing a new person in your life.

Compatibility gets an added dimension when dating with kids

Compatibility is the most important ingredient in a successful relationship, which is why we place such weight on its significance here at eharmony. But when it comes to kids, there’s also the fact that they have to get along with them.

They don’t have to get along like a house on fire nor are they necessarily replacing a parental role, but their relationship should be positive and harmonious, and if it’s currently not, you’re taking appropriate steps to address it and find common ground. But prioritize your children over your love life.

The emotional complexity of it all

It can be hard feeling like a sensual being with real and adult sexual needs while packing your kid’s lunch and stuffing a diaper bag. We tend to neglect our romantic side out of sheer necessity when dating with kids.

And often when single parents do decide to date, they can be forgiven for not feeling like less of a sexual being or perhaps even being a little distracted. This is natural, and often the balancing act can feel exhausting. This is a new skill you will just have to learn to juggle and accept.

Your ex can be a far prominent aspect in your life

The other parent can seem like a standard factor to deal with when dating someone with children, but it can be a bit of an emotional maze, depending on the health of their relationship, custody arrangements and their perception towards you possibly being a new figure in their kid’s life. 

Dating a woman with kids can often feel complicated as fathers can be territorial about having their fatherly role usurped, while mothers often are more concerned over their influence on their children.

Dating a single mom

You want to start dating a single mom? Here is what to consider when dating a single mom and the benefits of dating single mothers.

Dating a single dad

Dating a man with kids is a big decision. We look at the good, the bad, and what to keep in mind when dating a guy with kids.

Expert advice on how to communicate your parenting status to potential partners

We asked one of our eharmony relationship experts, Laurel House, how you can effectively communicate your parenting status to potential partners and Laurel House has four helpful tips for dat:

  1. Your first communication opportunity to share your parenting status is on your dating profile. You can do this in a few different ways, without making this one element of who you are the entirety of what people see and read. First, in your written “About me,” section,  include “…and I’m a mom/dad/parent.”
  2. You can also choose to include a photo of you with your children in the photo section. This doesn’t mean that you need to show your child’s face. A photo of the side or back of their head, or a little hand in yours is often enough to open the conversation that you have a child.
  3. What you definitely don’t want to do is hide that you are a parent. This is an important element of your life, and your potential partner needs to understand this if they are going to get involved with you.
  4. You also don’t want to make the entire conversation about your kids, even if the other person is a parent too. This isn’t a parenting group, it’s an opportunity for you to get out there again and enliven the other sides of who you are, in addition to being a parent!

Tips for dating with kids – How to build a healthy relationship

While the above may not paint the most inviting picture of hopping back on the scene when dating with kids, there are simple hints, tips and allowances you can make in your life to not only ease the burden but make it a novel experience entirely on its own.

Learn to communicate openly when dating with kids

The first and most steadfast rule is to be as transparent about your situation as possible from the start. This is fairer on your significant other and wastes less of your time. Also, try to clue them into what this exactly entails, how it might be different from other people they’ve dated and what your availability for dating feasibly looks like.

It’s also fair to give them an out. Understand that not every person is looking for or is ready for a more complex arrangement than traditional dating. 

Reassure your children to ensure they’re comfortable and informed about the process

Similarly, you should also sit your kids down and explain that you’re going to be dating again and that it’s not something that will fundamentally change your relationship. And if there are any changes, you’ll warn and discuss the details with them well ahead of time.

They may have an instinctively negative reaction to this news, but they will learn to come around if you’re patient and understanding with them.

Maintaining prioritizing your children’s needs

We likely don’t have to tell you this, but your kids are – somewhat strangely – at the center of your dating and relationship choices. When you’re dating with kids, you’re no longer just looking for someone who can fulfill your romantic and relationship requirements but also someone who’d be a positive presence in your children’s lives.

So you need to start adding traits like maturity, dependability, level-headedness and flexibility to your dating checklist, so they can fit, at least partially at first, into a parental role. 

Learn to manage your time more wisely

This is difficult, particularly for those singles who feel like 24 hours in a day is already too little. But try and batch out your time to give you a macro view of how you’re spending your week and see what can be shuffled around to allow for dating pursuits. Harnessing the power of technology like online dating can help a lot in this area.

If you’re dating a man with kids or a woman, also learn to be more appreciative of the time they give you.

Let your partner and children form a bond at their own pace

It’s very important that you don’t try too hard to force a relationship between your long-term partner and your children. This will happen naturally over time.

They will have their own bonding moments that will compel your children to trust and feel closer to your partner and likewise, there will be moments your partner has where they find new depths of emotional attachment with them. You can provide the opportunity for these moments, but you can’t make them land properly. 

Don’t sacrifice practicality for compatibility because you’re dating with kids

When you’re dating with children, people can often be driven to be a little too practical in their dating checklist. They’ll often put their children’s needs in a life partner over their own romantic preferences when they don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

Your children only need you and your love for a healthy upbringing so don’t pick someone who can fill a non-existent void, find the person who’s right for you. 

Take time from your roles to also practice self-care

Between your renewed commitments to your love life and your continued ones to your kids, it can be easy to lose sight of yourself in the mix. This speaks to that feeling of being overwhelmed when dating with kids. Remember, you’re doing this for fun, so don’t treat it like a second job.

Learn to use your friends and family as a source of emotional support throughout the process so they can help navigate you through certain uncharted waters. Also still remember to take time to do the things you enjoy.   

Take time to evaluate and appreciate the toll it may take on your partner

Dating someone with kids can also be new territory for your partner. One they have no experience with. So if you see them trying, and perhaps even often failing, to keep up with the specific dynamics of the situation, try to be patient and appreciative.

This is likely quite stressful for them too and if they’re the right partner, they’re just as worried about getting it right. Finding the right partner has actually been made easier than ever, thanks to eharmony’s scientific approach to compatibility-matching our members.

Dating with kids isn’t as complicated as you think

As you can see, dating with children is often a lot harder in our heads. While you may not have as many candidates looking for single parents, there’s still more than enough potential out there as long as you’re willing to be judicious with your time (like using online dating), are willing to do some planning ahead, and stay flexible and patient about the slightly more complex dating situation.  

At eharmony, we like to take a lot of the guesswork out of the equation by matching relationship-seeking singles based on psychological and relationship compatibility, so we connect you to the right people from day one. You can also filter matches based on them having children.

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