These days, with the divorce rate hovering close to 50%, the likelihood of dating a man with children is pretty high. As I discuss in Dating the Divorced Man, dating a divorced dad has many unique challenges that you won’t face with childless men. However, don’t be too quick to toss out that cute dad’s phone number, as each divorced dad is different and you may find one you really connect with. If you meet a guy you like and he has kids, here are some things to consider:
Number and age of kids. If you’ve ever babysat, you know one kid is easier than three or four. More kids = more to keep track of. Also, older kids are easier than younger ones. They’re more independent, which means Dad has more time to spend with you. A divorced dad with 2-year old twins has a lot more on his plate than one with a kid in college. On the other hand, there are some benefits to younger kids: if your relationship turns into marriage, you can bond more with younger children and play a stronger parental role in their lives. And, if Dad is wealthy, young children are less likely to worry that a new woman will threaten their inheritance.
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The kids’ behavior. Once you meet a divorced dad’s kids, pay attention to their behavior. Poorly behaved kids are a sign of trouble. Some kids will be slow to warm up to you, and even the sweetest kids have bad days and can be bratty or cranky at times, but beware of children who disrespect you or their father, or who show consistent behavioral problems. Bad behavior often reflects ineffective parenting and other problems, and these problems will have a destructive effect on your relationship.
Parenting style. Every parent has a different parenting style. Some are strict, others more permissive. Ideally, his parenting style will mesh with your beliefs about how children should be raised. Otherwise, expect conflicts in the future.
Parenting time. The more parenting time a divorced dad has, the more his children will influence your relationship. There’s a difference between a divorced dad who has full custody because Mom has drug problems and a divorced dad who only has his child during the summer. The former will have a lot more to deal with, and so will you.
The Ex. Unless the divorced dad is a widow, all children come with a mom. Hopefully, the single dad’s ex will be a reasonably nice person and he will have a good relationship with her. If the ex is difficult, this will cause problems down the road. The divorced dad doesn’t have to get along with his ex all the time, but if their relationship is rocky or she is a mean or difficult person, this can create strain on your relationship.
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Another important issue is you: are you cut out for dating a single dad? A man with kids has a lifetime obligation to those kids, and they will require his love, attention, and money. If you find you don’t like to share, or you just don’t like kids, that’s fine – it’s better to know this and avoid dating men with children, rather than put yourself in a situation that isn’t fair to you, him, or the kids.
Dating a divorced dad does have its challenges, but it can also be fulfilling. Every divorced dad’s situation is different; the key is to find the right situation for you. As you get to know him, take it slow, get to know him and his children, and be on the lookout for any red flags.