By Sharon Perkins, Stefan Korn, Scott Lancaster, Eric Mooij

Wanting to find another partner, or at least have a romantic relationship with someone new, is natural. Your life doesn’t have to be all about being a father and working to support your family. But beware — you’re not the carefree single man you used to be. You now come with extras.

When you go on dates or meet someone you’d like to be more than friends with, be honest from the outset that you have children. With the high rate of relationship breakups, it’s no longer unusual to be single with kids, so you needn’t feel self-conscious about it. By letting this person know you have kids from the outset, you’re letting her know how important your children are to you. Some women may not want to get involved with a man who has children — that’s okay, their loss.

Talking about a new partner to your children

The idea of a new special person in your life after all the mess and trauma of their parents’ breakup may be tough for your children to deal with at first. Initially your children may be confused when they think of how you used to be with their mom and now they’re seeing you with another woman. When you start dating or have met someone special, talk to your children about why you want to date and what it means for your family. Take things slowly and don’t rush your children into anything they’re not comfortable with.

Thinking this new person is going to replace their mother may be very painful for your children. The reality is that children are likely to think of their birth mom as “mom,” but over time they can get used to the idea of having two moms.

Give your children lots of time and let them know they can ask you lots of questions about your new partner. Be aware that your children may be resistant to the idea of your new partner. If possible, get their ideas for the first meeting and involve them somehow. It may be easier for your children to deal with the situation if they feel they have some sort of say over what happens.

Your children may be secretly hoping that you and their mom are going to get back together. The idea of a new romance in your life will mean that’s not going to happen and can be tough for your kids to deal with.

Surviving the meet and greet

When you have found the right person, she’ll one day need to meet your children, and your children will want to meet her. The meeting doesn’t have to be stressful; it can be as simple as having any of your friends over to visit. You may want to choose this first meeting to happen in a neutral area, like a park, playground, or café. Keep it short, sweet, and casual, and don’t push your kids into liking this new person.

After a few visits, chances are your children will get used to having your new girlfriend around. Again, never push them into liking her. It can take years for children to accept that a new person is around and that she’s going to become part of the family.

Make it clear to your kids that your new partner or girlfriend isn’t replacing their mother, but is an addition to the family. Continue to support the relationship between your kids and former partner, and make her a priority in your kids’ lives. Ask her to do the same if she gets involved with another partner as well.

This situation is probably pretty intense for your new partner too. Listen to the concerns she may have. Just as in any good relationship, you should foster an environment of open communication, where all of you can talk openly about anything, including feelings.

Getting remarried

If the time comes that you and your new partner decide to get married, get your kids involved with the whole shebang. Ask them what they would like to do. Tell them that this is a very special day for you, and it would be even more special if they helped. Cut them some slack if they’re not hugely enthusiastic about you getting remarried. After all, they may still be clinging to the way things used to be with you and their mom being married.

Make sure you don’t get so wrapped up in the event on the day that you don’t notice your children looking lost and feeling sidelined. It can be helpful to have family dedicated to looking out for them and to give them loads of hugs and kisses, because the wedding’s a big day for them too. They now have a stepmom!