I am a middle-aged widower who has recently started dating. I have not yet told my adult children. What is the best way to approach them about this new stage of my life, which I’m ready for, even if they’re not?
You are well within your rights to do whatever you like with your life, and to tell your children about it or not. They are within their rights to feel however they feel about your decisions. They don’t have the right to be mean about it, but they don’t have to like it either. This is the beauty of being a group of adults, especially ones who are not living under the same roof.
One approach is to continue dating without your children knowing about it. As long as your dates remain casual, you’re under no obligation to involve your children in your social life. Unless you’re going to run into your kids around town (and, at least right now, no one’s running into anyone anyway), they just don’t need to know.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t consign you to keeping a secret from them, even if your only motivation is that you want your children to be current on what’s happening in your life. I also wouldn’t be so quick to assume your children disapprove, or that they’re not ready or, frankly, that they haven’t already assumed you are dating.
If you do decide to fill them in, don’t use hypotheticals, don’t apologize and don’t overshare. A straightforward, “I wanted to let you know I’ve started dating. I’m happy to answer any questions you have, or if you’d prefer not to talk about it, that’s fine, too.” I would suggest sharing this information with all of your children at once via email, which means they’ll find out simultaneously and they’ll have time to deal with their feelings before sharing their reactions with you.
They might be angry with you. They might be happy for you. They might be overwhelmed by a variety of emotions, which could masquerade as any number of other emotions. You won’t know until you tell them.
Their responses, though, shouldn’t impact your future dating actions either way. You’re informing them, not asking for permission, and they don’t have to be ready, as long as you are. Down the line, if you start to get serious with someone, you can invite your children to meet this person, at which point they are welcome to say no, but their feelings still don’t dictate your actions.
Mazel tov on having reached this next phase of your life. I’m sure it couldn’t have been easy, and your fears about your children’s reactions are obviously a complicating factor. But your own happiness is worth a lot, and I wish you all the best,