Dating in today’s world can produce a litany of things to consider and work around; however, when we find someone worth the work, we often want to hold on to them. As we age, that means also accepting that they may come with a few plus ones. Yes, kids. At least one. And when jumping into the world of dating a co-parent, there are a different set of skills one needs to possess. Not only will children affect the amount of time you two are able to spend getting to know one another, it may also require having a relationship with their child’s other parent. Navigating these circumstances successfully calls for a great deal of security, communication, respect and understanding. At the end of the day, this is a relationship that will be around whether you’re in the picture or not. So, the last thing you want to do is make a mess of it by overstepping boundaries and/or creating confusion. 

If you’re new to dating a person with children, here are some things to steer clear of. 

Engaging in negative discussions about the other parent. 

There is a way to lend an ear and a way to remain neutral enough that you do not fan any flames. Co-parenting is a journey with lots of ebbs and flows; therefore, things may not always be smooth sailing. When the situation between the two parents hits a snag, refrain from adding negative commentary that may escalate the situation. The most important thing is a relationship between the parents that is conducive to raising healthy children not you earning loyalty points in the moment. 

Doing anything with the child without the approval of both parents. 

Before you change their hair or buy them a new outfit, run it through both channels. If you and the other parent are not yet on speaking terms, have your partner get the green light on your behalf. One of the easiest ways to get off on the wrong foot is by failing to include the other parent in any decisions you may be making in their child’s life. 

Meeting the child without the other parent’s ok. 

This can be hard territory to navigate especially if the co-parenting relationship is not on the up and up but if there hasn’t been clear communication of your meeting the child to the other parent—you in danger, girl. Children are so precious and parents have every right to be very selective with who they are allowed to spend quality time with. Even if your intentions are completely pure and based on your feelings for your partner, decline an invitation to meet the child until both parents agree. 

Inserting yourself into conversations concerning the child. 

It can be tempting to let your voice be heard when issues arise but this simply isn’t your place. If you happen to be an audience when the child’s care, education, needs, etc…are being discussed, listening is going to be the most helpful thing you can do. Later on, if your partner is in need of clarity on things that were discussed, you can help them to recall and respect any decisions they have made with their coparent. Your goal should always be to help mitigate damage not cause more of it. 

Allow the child to do anything with you that they’re not allowed to do with the other parent. 

In an attempt to create your own rapport with the child, you may think that breaking some of the rules outlined by one or both of their parents is harmless but this is a great way to find yourself in some heat. Chances are, if the rules are in place, there’s a reason. No matter if you agree with the rules or not, you have to honor them. 

Post photos of the child online. 

No matter how adorable they are or how much you want to make it known that they, too, mean something to you—do not post a photo of them without the other parent’s permission. There could be any number of reasons why someone may choose or not choose to post their children on the internet but having someone else do it can really cause a huge issue. Until the guidelines are made crystal clear, keep the memories to yourself.