Today I gave a pep talk to a friend who has recently got serious with a single mum and was meeting her two kids for the first time. He wanted to know how he could make her kids like him, and how to impress her with his natural step-dad skills.
I’m a single mum, and I am dating a single dad who’s son I get on well with. So, here are my tips for dating a single parent and not pissing them and their kids off so much that they wave goodbye after the first meeting.
1) Don’t get too physically affectionate with the parent
I am a very tactile person, and in private I’m all for touching, and kissing, and general groping. In front of my daughter, however, it’s a different matter. Obviously over time it would change, but around her unless I initiate it, keep your hands off.
2) Don’t pretend to be cool
Do you remember how lame you thought your parents and their friends were? Yeah, that’s you. You’re old and you’re uncool. Just because in the pub with your mates you’re cool does not mean that on the playground with the kids you’re cool. So don’t act like it. Don’t try and be cool. Just accept you’re not. You’re old, uncool, and probably unwanted.
3) Don’t pretend to know things
If they talk about kid things, Sky Landers, Mine Craft etc, don’t pretend you know about it. Because even if you know a bit about it what you’re going to say will just sound like you’re trying to be cool *see point 2*. So don’t. Instead, ask them about it. Accept that whatever you know is not up to date, not current, and probably sounds lame. Ask questions and listen to the answers, then ask more.
4) Don’t try and butt in
If you’re invited in then by all means, join. But if you’re not invited in, stay back. Hang out, watch (in a none creepy way if possible) but don’t force your way in on their games and activities. Forcing your way in on kids lives is a sure fire way of pissing them of and driving them away.
5) Be careful with sides
In none serious, jokey, issues always take the kid’s side and laugh about it. However, the moment an issue comes up that could in any possible way be seen as parenting you keep out. Do not offer opinions, do not take sides, and whatever you do you must not discipline in any shape or form. Obviously if the relationship develops and you become a permanent parent figure then this will be revisited. But for quite some time in you should respect this. The parent makes the decisions, the parent deals with the situations, and you will enrage both the child and the parent if you try and step in.
6) Don’t be fake
Kids can spot fakes a mile off. The moment you do something that you’re not genuine about they will know. Fake smiles, fake laughter, fake opinions. If you don’t like something and tell them you love it, just to impress them, they’ll know you’re lying. If you don’t like their preferred music, don’t claim you do. Being fake will make them mistrust you, and if your kid mistrusts someone you automatically feel the same way.
7) Don’t try and force affection
If someone tries to hug Miss Rose and she doesn’t want them to she gets upset. If she backs away and people keep coming at her to try and force affection on her she gets scared. If someone upsets and scares my baby I want to smack them. If someone tries to force physical contact on her that she doesn’t want I get angry. If the kid comes to you for a hug, give it. If there is no sign of them initiating physical contact, don’t go there.
Follow these tips and, if you’re lucky, your partners child might accept you. Might even like you. But don’t rush it, and don’t expect them to welcome you with open arms immediately. These things take time, and reaching a level of begrudging acceptance on a first meeting is actually really good. But it is a slow process.