By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Ask Dr. Marion

QUESTION: Doctor Marion,

My mom has been widowed for nearly three years now. My father and her were married nearly 33 years. Last weekend, on our weekly chat, she told me that she wanted to find someone to "spend time with". I'm not averse to this, but it did come as a shock. I wish her all the happiness in the world, and if this is what makes her happy, finding a new mate, then I'm all for it. My question is: how do I handle the situations when the "new" man comes over for family dinners and events? How I do explain the relationship to my daughters and the rest of the family? Jenny in Arizona, 33

ANSWER: Dear Jenny,

The need for companionship does not go away as a person ages. If your mother has the desire to be with someone on a more regular basis, you have to accept it as a natural part of her life. Companionship gives us the opportunity to be ourselves and to share ourselves with others. Our individuality is sometimes even enhanced by this sharing.

Finding a new mate can be a challenge, but it can also open up new vistas for your mother, such as exciting social outings and new environments to investigate. A new person in her life may also expand your mother's circle of contacts.

And when it's time to explain or introduce your mother's "new person" to your family, be as natural as you can. It's also important that you be straightforward and non-judgmental. Open, positive communication is helpful for everyone.

©2006 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc.