Dating someone with children can be an awesome experience. Spending time with a mini version of your partner is a lot of fun, and it can be exciting to imagine building a life together and being a part of their child’s future.

In my experience, falling for a parent opens a window to their heart and yours that you may never have fully seen otherwise. There’s something about observing the tenderness of parenting that can crack a heart wide open.

When kids are involved and we are falling fast, relationships can accelerate at an intense pace. As exciting as this can be, there’s some risk in it.

Parents sometimes take dating pretty seriously, which can put the new partner in a position of having to make big decisions quickly.

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In the whirlwind of a new relationship and the joy of bonding with little ones, we may miss red flags.

Having been on all sides of this situation, I can empathise with anyone who is navigating this intense territory.

Here are some important points to consider when you’re dating someone with kids:

1. Things should run pretty smoothly with the other parent. If your partner describes their ex negatively, pay attention. There will be disagreements in even the best of co-parenting relationships, but generally there should be a cooperative and polite energy.

2. Ask why he/she separated from their ex. Check the facts with a neutral source.

3. If your partner and their ex have made functional parenting arrangements without legal intervention, this is a great sign. If there has been court involvement, go online or head to the courthouse to read the file. Your partner should be open to giving you access to documents from both sides if you have questions.

4. Don’t get involved in custody issues. Even the best intentions could have a detrimental effect on the children’s lives. If conflicts arise, let your partner handle them while you offer love and support.

5. Look for a long-term pattern of integrity, health and good parenting before you jump in with both feet. Then establish a strong, solid relationship before you involve the children. There shouldn’t be any pressure to commit before you, and the kids, are ready.

Look for a long-term pattern of integrity, health and good parenting before you jump in with both feet. Then establish a strong, solid relationship before you involve the children

6. If you meet the kids, make an effort to connect with other parent. Most parents want to know who their children are spending time with and are appreciative of open doors to communication, but the onus is on you to initiate.

A quick email is often enough to establish healthy mutual respect. If your partner creates barriers to this, that could be a warning sign.

7. Have fun creating the building blocks of trust and friendship with the kids in the beginning. Be careful not to take on a parenting role until there is a commitment and a sense of permanence.

8. Pay attention to whether your partner consistently puts the kids first or whether they seem more focused on their own agenda. You should see a healthy and natural commitment to prioritising the kids’ needs over a long period of time.

9. If your partner wants you to take over parenting tasks early on, shows inconsistent commitment to responsibilities, or the kids seem especially resistant to spending time together, these are all red flags inviting you to step back and take a closer look.

10. If your partner is an open book, encourages you to build friendships with the children when the time is right, is a competent and consistent parent, takes responsibility for past and current situations, has a respectful co-parenting relationship and puts the kids first, you’re in a positive situation.

The most important thing is to trust your instincts

If you see things running smoothly and the kids are happy and well-adjusted, great! However, if you find yourself tripping over some of the speed bumps listed above, take some time to slow down and proceed with eyes wide open.

You could end up being a very important part of the long-term health and happiness of your partner’s children; a role that comes with both enormous responsibility and enormous joy. Make sure your decision to take on that role is made with full confidence that all is well.