After the loss of a spouse – whether from death or divorce – dating and remarriage may be considered. However, this time around, it is not just about you! Your children will play a very big role in the next partner you choose. The adaptability of your children will also determine if the relationship will be able to survive the stress of a blended family. To increase your odds of a successful remarriage, bear in mind the following guidelines.

It is a rare occurrence when “Mr. or Miss Right” is found the first time you venture out into the dating world. Dating is a numbers game; the more people you meet, the better chance you have of meeting that special someone with whom you can connect. Therefore, you probably will not want to introduce every person you meet to your children.

As a rule, parents want to shield their children from loss. We can do our best, but in order for them to live a full life, they must take some risks – and with risk comes the possibility of loss. One theory to consider is that if we allow our children to connect with others and learn that it is "okay" to say goodbye, we can actually increase their tolerance to loss.

Keeping this concept in mind, and to minimize a child’s emotional confusion, you may want to utilize it in conjunction with responsible dating, which includes pre-qualifying those who will meet your child(ren). Consequently, at the onset of a dating relationship, it may be wise to meet at a specified location, rather than at one another’s home.

Once you know more about your prospective partner and have decided to see him/her on a regular basis, you can make a short introduction to your child(ren). If the relationship continues to progress, contact with each other will increase accordingly. At that point, you could invite your date over for dinner or plan some sort of fun family outing. The truth is that people move in and out of our lives constantly. As long as the person is one of quality, your child(ren) should be able to glean something positive from the budding relationship.

If your relationship progresses to the consideration of marriage, you are eventually going to have to discuss the plan with your child(ren)! Even though you may want to shout at the top of your lungs about your newfound happiness, you may want to consider the following tips when making the “big announcement.”

Pick a specific place and time, which will be free of any interruptions.

1. To elicit an authentic response, each parent should tell his or her children by him or herself — without the stepparent-to-be present. Be straightforward in your announcement and refrain from using “happy” adjectives. If you start the conversation with the words, “I have wonderful news!” it may preclude your children from expressing their true feelings. They may be afraid that they could disappoint you, if they express anything other than exuberance. Your job is to find out how your children feel — not tell them how you feel.

2. For divorced people, tell your children before you tell your ex-spouse (or anyone else). Widow/ers should also tell their children first before announcing it to other family members and friends. This will avoid having your children feel as if they are the last to know or are being excluded from an important decision that directly affects their lives.

3. Your announcement should not come as a big surprise, for your children should have been given many opportunities to get to know and get comfortable with your new mate. Hopefully, ongoing family discussions have been regularly taking place that cover topics such as: the possibility of remarriage; how each individual child feels about your new mate; what a new family situation would look like; and how the lives of your children might change.

4. So that there are no misunderstandings, directly ask for your children's thoughts about your intended marriage. They may be nervous or hesitant about it because they do not know what it means to their lives. If you can make your children feel safe by letting them know the things that will remain constant, their “arguments” against the upcoming marriage might be lessened.

5. Find out what would make your children most comfortable with this new situation. Ask if they have specific questions or if they would be uneasy with too many details. Ask what would make them feel as if they have more control over the situation (and their own lives).

Change is threatening to young and old alike. Emphasize that the love you feel for your children and your special time spent together are things that will not change.

Change is the operative word. After all, life is all about learning how to adapt to change successfully. However, keep in mind that “change is not made without inconvenience, even from worse to better.” (Richard Hooker)

To help a child skillfully maneuver through the adjustments a blended family situation brings, it is important for him/her to have a familiar anchor on which to grab. Assurances that may help a child retain some stability include: having (or keeping) his/her own room; staying in the same school; keeping the same friends; and participating in the same activities. If some basic circumstances can remain constant, it will be easier to accept and adapt to the changes that are unavoidable.

It is also important to avoid negating a child’s feelings or perceptions. At any age, it is awkward, at first, to see your mom or dad with someone new. Recognize anger may arise and be directed at the step parent or step sibling. Not wanting to alienate his/her parent, the child transfers or displaces the anger at the disruption of his/her life elsewhere. Another way anger might surface is acting out at school. To mitigate this situation, continue to reassure your child that he/she will always hold a most special place in your heart. Remind your child that the heart is a very accommodating organ; it can open wide to include love for new people – without excluding the ones already residing there.

The successful blending of two families is a slow process and takes a lot of time and sustained effort. As the new family unit takes baby steps towards its goal, it is important to stress to each member that he/she has to at least try his/her best to reach a livable compromise and be open to believing that sometimes different can be better.

Author's Bio: 

Ellen Gerst is a grief and relationship coach and the author of several books on both subjects, including: In Order To Be Terrific, You Need To Be Specific!; 101 Tips and Thoughts on Coping with Grief; Dating over 35+; and Love After Loss: Writing The Rest of Your Story. The preceding article is an excerpt from "Love After Loss", which is a blueprint on how to find new love after the demise of a relationship due to death, divorce or break-up. Join Ellen on Facebook where she gives relationship/dating tips every day Visit Ellen's website for more information and to purchase books.