Tweet Much like the 10 Commandments being the basis for our modern legal system, this list is just a starting point for dating as a parent. As a child psychiatrist, I have treated a large number of children who were harmed by the poor choices their parents made while dating.
Here is my top 10 list of things parents and people dating parents should never do, based on my experience as a child psychiatrist, step-parent, parent, step-child and recent online dater. Armed with these tips, you can confidently get back in the dating pool knowing that you are not putting your children at risk. There is no reason why a guy on a dating site needs to see a picture of your children.
Thou shalt not discuss your custody battle or your crazy ex. You are not doing yourself any favors by dumping on your ex or detailing your five-year custody battle. Thou shalt not introduce your children to every new person you are dating. Children often emotionally attach to any adult they are frequently around. So every time you break up with someone your kids spend time with, they have to grieve the loss as well. Why put them through that? Plus, you are exposing them to someone you barely know.
Thou shalt not invite your new crush to family time. Children can only respond to such a situation in one of two ways: Not a pretty picture, eh? Thou shalt not lie to your children about the fact that you are dating. Children often secretly wish their parents would get back together and the longer they think you are not looking for someone new, the longer they can hold on to that fantasy. I have seen parents lie about dating, sometimes for years, and when the child eventually finds out, they can be devastated.
Thou shalt not let your children know that you hookup. Plus, they unconsciously observe everything their parents do as guides for how to behave.
So ask yourself, do you really want your year old doing exactly what you are doing? Children are very clear on who their parents are. Even if a parent is dead, has abandoned them or is in prison for life, children often resent attempts by step-parents to parent them and see such things as manipulative efforts to replace a parent.
Parents sometimes subtly or not so subtly try to push the unpleasant parts of parenting, namely the discipline, off on the step-parent. I could write a book on all the reasons why this is a bad idea, but until I do, please just trust me on this one. The best thing for a step-parent to do is to merely be the adult in charge, like a babysitter or nanny that enforces the rules when the parent is not there, but then leaves the decisions about consequences to the parent for when they get back.