Just a mom of two trying my best to keep up with all the latest trends, pitfalls, philosophies, and challenges of parenthood.
What if Your New Boyfriend (or Girlfriend) Doesn't Like Your Kids?
Finding someone you want to date is hard . . . especially if you have kids. Finding a person you enjoy spending time with is not easy by itself, and finding someone who also likes spending time with your kids can be a slow, difficult, and painful process. At some point early on in your romantic journey, you have to ask yourself if this person is right for your kids, too. Because if you're a parent, you don't get to think only of yourself anymore, right?
According to therapist Julie Williamson, LPC, NCC, RPT,
It's important to consider the impact a boyfriend's or girlfriend's non-interest is having on the children, as well as your relationship. Are your children experiencing thoughts and feelings of being unloved, brushed aside, or not seen? Children may not understand that your partner's disinterest is a choice, and may internalize the idea that something is wrong with them instead.
To be a good parent to your kids, you have to think of them first. And remember that it's sometimes easier to say "goodbye" before things get too serious. But if you've already fallen for this person, how can you avoid being confused and blinded by your feelings? Here, I've put together a simple list to guide you.
9 Signs Your New Boyfriend or Girlfriend Is Not Bonding With Your Kid
- Communication Breakdown. If your boyfriend (or girlfriend) has a hard time talking to your kids—if there are painfully awkward exchanges, misunderstandings, confusion, angry words, or they just don't communicate at all—this is a bad sign.
- Lack of Care or Consideration. It's great if your boyfriend or girlfriend wants to take you out on the town or whisk you away on a trip somewhere romantic. But if they forget you have kids, this is a definite warning sign . . . especially if they get upset or impatient when you remind them.
- Dodgy Behavior. If your partner actively looks for ways to avoid spending time with your kids—and your kids avoid him or her, too—this is a problem.
- Hoarding Time. If your partner seems jealous of the time you spend with your kids and actively tries to get you to stop seeing them, this is definitely a problem.
- "Us" vs. "Them." If your boyfriend or girlfriend tries to make you choose the romantic relationship over the parental one, this is a red flag.
- Lack of Empathy. If your partner seems incapable of seeing things from the kids' perspective, this is cause for concern.
- They "Just Don't Like Kids." Some people don't like kids. It's just a fact, and that's fine . . . unless you happen to have them. Do you really want your kids to be forced to interact with someone who doesn't like them?
- If Your Kids Don't Like Them. Kids will often say things to sabotage a relationship that threatens them, but it's your job as a parent to listen with open ears and an open mind to figure out what's really happening.
- Gut Feelings. If your parental instincts kick in and you suspect that something is off, wrong, or problematic, it's time to pay attention to your intuition.
Each of these situations is described in detail below.
1. Communication Breakdown
When you always have to be the mediator, interpreter, and communicator, this could be an early warning sign of trouble to come. If your boyfriend or girlfriend only tries to communicate with them through you ("Can you tell your son to clear his dishes?"), this is definitely a bad omen.
Your new flame doesn't have to be a child-whisperer who immediately, magically captures your kids' hearts, but there does have to be an attempt at basic communication. Since your boyfriend/girlfriend is supposed to be the adult here, they should be the one who is actively trying to reach out.
Who's to blame? Of course, sometimes—especially at first—your kid might be a little shy or close-lipped (and that's completely normal), but you should be looking out for any verbal signs that your new love interest is really not even trying to communicate with your kids.
2. "Forgetfulness" (Lack of Care and Consideration)
If your new boyfriend or girlfriend consistently forgets your kids' names, schedules, or existence, this is something you can't ignore. Not only will it make your kids feel left out, unimportant, and emotionally overlooked, but if they consistently forget important details (like nut allergies or phobias), their carelessness could do some real, physical damage.
Remember, a person who keeps forgetting that you are a parent might be wishful-thinking that you didn't have kids . . . and this is just not someone you want to bring home.
3. Dodgy Behavior: Your Boyfriend/Girlfriend Avoids Your Kids
You don't have to hang out "as a family" all the time, but your new boyfriend or girlfriend should expect to spend at least some time with both you and your kids. If they keep trying to dodge out of hanging out together as a group, you should definitely worry.
And if they do come over to your house—especially if they sleep over—they should never, ever make your kids feel like they don't belong. It's your kids' home, after all, and if your new flame ignores them, hides behind closed doors, tries to exclude them from every plan, or avoids sharing space, it might be time to say goodbye.
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4. Hoarding Time
Avoiding your kids is one thing, but actively planning to exclude them is another. If your new love interest shows signs of being greedy and selfish with your attention, demanding your undivided consideration and insisting on alone time with you, this is a definite red flag.
Jealous of your kids? If they show any signs of being jealous of the relationships you have with your kids or the time you spend with them, it is cause for concern. Staying in a relationship with a person who wants to steal you away from your kids is flirting with disaster.
5. Us vs. Them
Sure, romantic love is juicy. It's so exciting to let an attractive new love interest into your inner circle. But when that person wants to take you over, monopolize your emotions, and become your one-and-only significant other, this is a definite conflict when there are children in the picture. If they think the romantic relationship should outweigh your parental role, it's a bad sign.
Making enemies? If they complain that your kids are out to get them or try to make your children seem like the "bad guys" who are against them, it's time to worry. If they insinuate that your kids are coming between you two and are obstacles in your togetherness, it's time to reconsider who you really want on your team.
6. Lack of Empathy
Even if your new boyfriend or girlfriend seems very tender and understanding of your feelings, if they don't extend that consideration to your children, it's something to worry about. They should be able to understand things from the kids' perspective (or at least try). They should know that this is a delicate situation, that the kids' other parent is probably in the picture, that feelings are torn, that there are histories and routines they don't know about, and that everyone's emotions are different and complicated.
You can't expect your kids to like someone just because you do. If your new boyfriend or girlfriend doesn't show a basic understanding of your kids' feelings and perspective, they probably never will.
7. They Just Don't Like Kids Very Much
Maybe they don't have kids . . . maybe they never want them. If so, you'll need to find out why. Because if they really do have a problem with children, do you really want your children to be disliked? If you dislike something, it usually shows in subtle or not-so-subtle ways. Your kids will notice, no matter how hard you try to hide it. Sometimes, the most obvious signs are the easiest to ignore. Especially if your boyfriend or girlfriend tries to explain their dismissive actions with the words "I just don't like kids," it's time to pay attention.
Ask your new partner what they think about kids before you introduce them to yours. If they have kids, find out about their relationship with them. If they don't have any children of their own, find out why. Know their future plans regarding parenthood and having a family before you involve them in yours.
Not everyone is cut out to be a parent. If your girlfriend or boyfriend has never been tempted by parenthood, or if they've actively avoided having kids, these are important pieces of information. Don't conveniently overlook the obvious signs.
8. When Your Children Don't Like Your New Girlfriend or Boyfriend
Don't forget that the relationship between your new partner and your kid goes both ways, and sometimes, it's the kids that voice the problem. Of course, bringing a new partner into your family is guaranteed to be difficult. There will be bumps on the road, for sure. But I'm not talking about those "normal" problems—I'm talking about serious, irreconcilable differences between your kids and your new partner. When your children can't form a bond with your new partner, this is something to pay attention to.
Especially if your kids are young, it's easy for a parent to think that they know better than the kids do. Kids don't have a lot of experience with these things, after all, and their perspective is limited. Plus, it may turn out that they are resistant to your new partner because they're secretly hoping you'll get back together with your ex (their biological parent). Or they might just be worried that they're losing you or expressing a fear of change. All of these reactions are normal and can be handled graciously.
But our kids are sometimes able to see our relationship better than we can. After all, they have a front-row seat, and their vision isn't clouded by romance. Whatever the case, it's always important to listen to and value what they say.
Your kids' thoughts and feelings should be a priority. If your kids come to you and share their negative feelings about your new partner, take the time to really hear what they're saying. It might be that you simply need to give them more time, love, and attention. . . but it might also be a red flag that your new partner will never be able to form a relationship with your kids or become a full member of the family.
9. Your Gut Feelings
Sometimes—even when everyone is "smiling for the camera," even when everything seems fine on the surface—you might just have a sneaking suspicion that something is off. Don't ignore your parental instincts: What is your gut telling you? Take the time to see the red flags before the disaster hits.
You probably know all of this instinctively, so the fact that you're still doubting your own senses is probably a sign that you need to stop and really listen to yourself for once.
What's the Worst Thing That Could Happen?
You might wonder, so what if my boyfriend doesn't like my kids? Well, even if that disinterest is subtle, your kids will feel it. On some level—conscious or subconscious—your kids will feel unaccepted and unwelcome, rejected and unloved, angry and abandoned. They'll feel like you let them down, no matter what you do to rationalize your guilt or how hard you pretend otherwise.
According to Julie Williamson, LPC, NCC, RPT, therapist, and certified premarital interpersonal choices and knowledge (PICK) instructor,
"Before entering into a relationship, it's important to consider your values and prioritize which values are most important for any long-term relationship you hope to have. It is crucial to consider your ideas about family: If your values are not matching up with your partner and his/her actions, it may be time to say goodbye."
In the End
If you don't react to these red flags, you'll regret it later. Even if you don't want to see these signs that your new boyfriend or girlfriend is not great for your kids, as a parent, you just can't afford to ignore it.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.