Dating someone with children can seem like a daunting prospect. You might have never been in that situation before and the same goes for their kids. Emotional relationships are always hard and when you become a part of a blended family, you need to play by some rules if you want to really become a part of that family. So, if you are struggling with bonding with your partner’s children, don’t despair – here are some ways you can make things better and strengthen your bond.
Don’t play the parent
Especially if the child is above ten years old – you are not their parent. You are just someone their parent is dating, and if you want them to like you, you need to approach them more like a friend than as a parent. This is especially important if their other parent is not in the picture anymore because they might feel like you are trying to take their place. Whenever it comes to making decisions about the child’s future, health, and other important aspects, take the back seat and let their parents deal with it. Similarly, don’t discipline the child. You don’t have that kind of authority and trying to discipline them won’t do any good for either of you and especially your relationship.
Be patient and listen closely
Kids want to be heard and understood. They will always drop hints to try and test the waters before they can trust you. So make sure you pick up on those hints and react. If they mention their favorite food or dish, suggest it as the next family meal. If they mention they want a toy one of their friends has, make a note to check with the friend’s parents to see where they got it and then scour those specific online toy stores in Australia to find the one they said they wanted. You need to put in the effort and can’t just think that they “like what all kids like”. With older kids, this could be figuring out what music is coming out of their headphones at all times and find tickets for them to see that artist when they are in town.
Don’t always go through the parent
It can seem easier to tell your partner to set up a date for all of you or to speak to the kids through them, but what you really want to do is form a personal bond with the child. Make them trust you so they can tell you things that they might not even tell their parent. A good way to start this individual bond is to ask the kid(s) to help with planning a surprise party for their parent. This way, you automatically form a team and you definitely aren’t including their parent in it. And, if you’re not sure how or when to approach them, you can ask your partner to causally arrange that, for example, to start getting ready for your date when you arrive, so while they’re in the shower, you have an “excuse” to talk to the kid.
Take it slow
Building relationships takes time and with something this delicate and important, there’s really no need to rush. Just be a good partner to their parent and a good friend to them, and step by step, day by day, you will get to a phase when you will become an inseparable part of each other’s lives. And if you see that they are pulling back – don’t force anything. They might not be ready to open up to you – and that’s okay. Just be there for them when they are ready – I promise, that time will come.