Q: “I’ve started dating someone and we both have kids in the 10-12 age range. Even before we started dating our kids were friends and I could see some attractions between my 12YO son and her daughter. Now that we are officially dating, how do I prevent this from erupting into a potential disaster – especially if we get married down the road and they’re all living under the same roof?”
Regular columnist, Brenda Yoder answers:
You’ve got a tricky situation, but you’ve already answered your question by seeing red flags of a “potential disaster.” As a well respected colleague and psychologist once said, “Go with your gut.” Your gut is telling you it would be a disaster if you and your dating partner where to marry or live together under the same roof if your children saw each other as anything other than brother or sister.
Blended households become blended families when living under the same roof. The boundary in this situation is the nature of the adult relationship. Your parental responsibility is keeping boundary lines clear for your minor children and doing what’s in their best interest. The boundary of “dating” is distinct when you each have your own homes and separate families. When two adults decide to merge their households and families by living together, the household becomes “home” to those living there. The children of the partners become step-brother and step-sisters, under which any type of romantic or sexual feelings are inappropriate, confusing, unhealthy and dangerous for a child or teen. If this relationship becomes one where marriage is the long-term goal for you as a couple, then wait until both children have graduated and are adults. Blending the families at any point before then with prior knowledge of a non-familial interest between the kids would not be in the best interest of either child. It would be considered putting a child in danger, and could have negative effects for a marriage or future family relationships.
When in doubt, go with your gut . You see the potential disaster on your hands. If there is any sign of romantic or sexual interest between children, date for several years if you want to be together long-term . Protect your children from feelings they can’t control and don’t put them in a situation where they may have romantic feelings towards a step-brother or sister. Once they are adults, they can process what a permanent relationship between their parents looks like, and they can make decisions for themselves. Don’t blur their lines now. Keep the relationship boundaries clear for them.
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