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When Mom's Got a New Boyfriend

Even if your kids are adults, introducing them to a new partner can be tough

En español | Ask adult children if they would like their widowed or divorced parent to find a new partner, and most would say, "Of course. I'd love Mom (or Dad) to be happy."

See also: Dating after 50

Don't be too quick to believe them. Children are protective of their parents, no matter their — or your — age. They tend to think no one is good enough for mom or dad, no one's motives are pure, and every new person you bring around is either a gold digger, a spendthrift or someone who will tear you away. Things get even touchier when you put sex into the equation: It's hard enough for kids to think about their parents in bed together, much less you and someone else.

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Stop and smell the roses before springing a new beau on your kids. — Photo by Cultura/Getty Images

Of course you shouldn't let those considerations stand in the way of your personal life. But it can be a good idea to conduct a new relationship in a way that will encounter the least amount of resistance. Here's my advice:

1. Have a conversation. Even if there's no one special in your life, talk to your adult children about why you want to meet someone. (And if you've met someone already, talk first in generalities about dating before talking about your new guy or gal.) Convey your feelings of being lonely, wanting affection and missing having a partner. You could even hint that in the absence of companionship, you might have to lean a lot more heavily on them — and you don't want to do that.

2. Lay the groundwork. When you're starting to date, mention to your kids that you might make mistakes. You could gently remind them that they made quite a few along the way too — and that there is a skill to dating that you have to re-learn. Tell them you'd appreciate it if they don't assume every person you bring home is "the one." And urge them not to be too quick to make judgments on the new flame.

3. Arrange a casual get-together. When things start getting serious, introduce your boyfriend or girlfriend to your family in small doses and with no big fanfare. Go to a movie together or start having casual family dinners every so often. Do not introduce a new person on a family trip or a major holiday. Let your children get used to the idea of this person in your life

Next: What to tell the kids when relationship gets serious. »

4. Prepare your partner. In advance of any get-together give your date enough information about your kids that he'll have something to talk about with them. Make sure he knows about any information that you've shared that are absolutely private and not to be mentioned in front of your children. If there are any touchy subjects (such a grown kid's unemployment or messy divorce), tell your date that those things are off limits. Remember, first impressions and conversations are important. If your date is sensitive to your kids' feelings, it's much more likely that he'll be greeted with an open mind and given a fair chance.

5. Have another conversation. When things get serious with you and a new love, ask your kids about issues that might concern them. If they're worried about financial matters, let them know you'll take measures (such as a prenuptial agreement) that will protect your (and their) interest — as well as their future. If children seem concerned that you won't be as committed to them, remind them they are first in your heart and will never be displaced. Make them feel secure in your love — and your concern about their welfare after you are gone.

6. Get it out there. If your children are unhappy about a relationship that is working for you, have a heart-to-heart conversation about what's bothering them. If that doesn't work, think about having a session with a family counselor to help handle the issues. But whatever you do, don't avoid a person you like — or dating in general — because it bothers your kids. You have a right to have love, sex and companionship. Sooner or later, your kids will get used to it — and if you're happy, they will likely be too.

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