Once the discomfort of the first meeting is over, if you think it's gone well try and gauge the reactions from both sides. Try and judge if your date is being overly enthusiastic about the kids, a possible sign that he's faking it. If he suggests future outings and tries to include the kids in your plans, he might really like them.
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Your kids will probably give you a more authentic and honest reaction on how they feel about your date. Let them know that you value their opinions and are actually considering their feelings (even if you do make your own decision ultimately).
If they like him, it's a done deal, at least the first hurdle has been crossed.
If they don't instantly take to him, don't let it worry you too much. Maybe they are still not comfortable with the idea of their mom or dad with someone else. It might not be anything personal. But if it persists after a few meetings, try and gently probe to find out the reasons behind it. You know your kids well enough to be able to figure out how genuine their fault-finding is, or whether they are just being territorial.
Don't put undue pressure on them to like the guy just because you do. It will only alienate them. Try and reassure them of your affection and see if their feelings gradually change over time. Provide them plenty of opportunities to get to know the person and maybe their opinions will change over time. If not, you will need to do some serious rethinking of the situation or get to the root of the animosity and take constructive steps to remedy it. Also rule out the possibility that your ex isn't poisoning their minds.
Before you seriously decide on someone for a long-term relationship, you may like to observe over time the way they interact with your kids. And ask yourself the following questions:
• Does he make them feel at ease and have genuine fun with them?
• Does he behave appropriately around them, avoids using foul language etc.?
• Does he talk down to them a lot or is he friendly with them?
• Do they look forward to outings with him and greet him enthusiastically when he arrives?
• Does he challenge your decisions in front of them?
• Does he pick fights in front of them, or wait till you are alone together so as not to perturb them?
• Do you feel you have to constantly placate him because he thinks you love your kids more than him?
• Does he act too possessive or get physical with you in front of them, even though he senses they aren't comfortable with it?
Do remember that ultimately, you are the adult and have to keep your kids' interests and welfare at the forefront. You may be able to form another relationship but you can't trade your kids. If at first you don't succeed, try again. It calls for patience and inner strength, but finally when you strike the right balance, it will be well worth the wait.