Your children have already braved a major upheaval in their home life, and it can be unnerving to think of disrupting your new family routines as well. If it's time for you to start seeing new people -- or if you've already met a special someone -- your children might feel threatened by the idea of sharing you with a stranger or the thought that you may be trying to replace their other parent. Sensitivity, reliability and patience are key to navigating this delicate process.
Introduce the subject during a normal, routine moment, such as a family dinner at home or after helping your children with their homework. This keeps the conversation natural and casual, rather than turning it into a big deal that your children may find threatening.
Tell your children that you will be out more often because you are making new friends and meeting new people. If your children are kindergarten age or younger, you don't need to tell them that you're exploring romantic relationships until you actually have one; if your children are older, tell them more specifically that you're starting to date again.
Remind your children that you love them and that they are your top priority. Reassure them that you haven't begun dating because you don't enjoy their company, but because you need adult companionship, too. Tell them that you'll still always be there to help them with homework and for regular family activities, such as weekly game nights.
Explain to older children that so far your dating is just for fun, and promise to tell them when someone you're seeing becomes important in your life. Tell your children that there's no reason for them to meet the people you date until you find someone special, unless meeting them would make your children more comfortable.
Ask your children how they feel about this idea. Listen to them sincerely and accept whatever they say. If they are upset, talk to them about why. Tell them again that they will always be your top priority and that you are not abandoning them for someone else.
Tell tween or teenage children that you want them to be comfortable with your dating, and ask them to tell you if anything you're doing makes them uncomfortable. If your children of any age still aren't happy about the whole idea, tell them you understand that and you love them, but that it's still time for you to meet new people.
Bring the conversation back to normal topics that focus on your children, such as what they did at school that day or what they're looking forward to doing that weekend. If they want to keep talking about you beginning to date, return to the subject and discuss it until your children are ready to talk about other things.
- Before any given date, let your children know how long the dates will go and whether or not you'll be home before they go to bed. Tell older children who might be home alone if it's OK for them to call you with casual questions while you're out. Remind them that they should always call you in an emergency.
- Be patient if it takes your children some time to get used to sharing you. Remind them frequently of how important they are to you, and demonstrate it by being attentive to their work, their hobbies and their conversation.
- Children may fear that they will lose your attention or that approving of you dating is disloyal to their other parent. Explain to them that it's natural and normal for you to want to spend time with other adults, and it doesn't mean you're betraying your ex. If your children's other parent passed away, explain that he or she wouldn't want you to be alone forever, and that dating other people doesn't mean you've forgotten or stopped caring.
- Don't lie to your children about where you are or what you are doing. Tell them when you have dates or are spending time with new friends, rather than pretending you have a work commitment or are going out with people your children know.
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