Keep it simple
While there really isn't a one-size-fits-all answer for anything when it comes to kids, it's very important to try and keep things as stable and as routine as possible after the confusion of a divorce or change in a long-term relationship. Children of all ages feel safest when things are predictable, so keeping their lives as uncomplicated as possible should be one of your goals. Your approach to talking to your kids about dating will vary depending on their age.
Dating kicks up emotions--for everyone!
If you were excited and nervous about the prospect of dating, think about the range of emotions that your children may have when they learn that you are either starting to date, or that you have found someone special that you think you may have a future with. From a child's perspective, depending on their age, they may react with anger, excitement, resentment, anxiety, or jealousy. So much of their reaction will be dependent upon the way you handle this new development.
"If Dad is dating a woman other than my Mom, then this means it's really over."
Remember, kids already feel like this divorce or separation "thing" has been done to them, and they have had little input on the way that it has affected their lives. Your child has been required to negotiate many changes, and may have also had to grieve the loss of their world as they knew it. Asking kids to accept the fact that you are dating is asking kids to accept a level of finality to their parent's marriage or their previous 2-parent home. So be cautious that about your timing, and be certain that this is someone who you are serious about before even thinking of introducing them.
Don't tell them more than they need or want to know
Your children don't need to know every time you are going on a date, especially when you are just starting out; you can let them know you're going out with a friend. Be careful not to "over-share" out of guilt or nervousness when talking about dating.
Psst! You don't need permission to date!
Keep your adult boundaries, and let the kids know that you've decided you're ready to start dating again (or that you've started to go out on dates). While your kids deserve the consideration and respect of a conversation on the issue, this is not a group decision. Prepare to listen to your kids react in a variety of ways that are likely to include disappointment or anger and try not to react defensively. Your job is to listen and to empathize, but not to be ruled by their emotion. Remember, this is a process for all of you, and everyone has their own way of coping with change. If your kids shrug off your announcement, be prepared to deal with their delayed reaction, or to invite discussion at a later time.
Want to learn more about age-appropriate guidelines for talking to your kids about dating when you are a single parent?