Concerned that your first interaction with your date’s parents this holiday season will resemble a scene from Meet the Parents? For the most part, meeting the parents will be harrowing but few parents will go out of their way to make you uncomfortable. Still, some preparation is a sound idea – and the following tips will ensure your meeting the parents is a positive experience.
1. When Meeting the Parents, Looks Matter
Cleanliness, grooming and presentation count when meeting the parents. With that being said, it doesn’t mean you need to be a model to wow the parents, but you do need to take more time than normal dressing to impress. For the ladies that means no super short skirts, outfits meant for bar hopping, unusual fashion statements or torn up jeans. For gentlemen this means no ball caps, cartoon t-shirts or clothing that needs pressing, hemming or tailoring. In general, try and be more conservative than normal while still being yourself.
2. Research As Much as You Can Beforehand
Depending on the differences between you and your partner, there may be a large list of things to cover with this tip or just a few. Either way, researching culture, religion, language, hobbies, interests and beliefs are great ways to prepare to meet the parents. If their native language is different than your own, learn how to pronounce basic greetings impeccably. Make sure you ask your partner what customs are normal in his or her family as well (such as kissing on the cheek when meeting or certain language that is or isn’t acceptable at the dinner table). Preparation is key here, especially if you are meeting the parents during the holiday season and their celebrations differ greatly than your own.
3. Know What Names to Use When Meeting the Parents
Say you are meeting your partner’s Mother for the first time, but you suddenly freeze up when thinking about what name to call her? You know she is divorced, but did she keep her ex-husband’s last name? Alleviate these kind of heart-wrenching moments by asking your partner before meeting either parent what greetings and names are customarily used, and then commit them to memory for the big day.
4. Don’t Go Empty Handed
No matter what the situation, when meeting the parents for the first time don’t go empty-handed. Dinner parties hosted by non-drinking families may appreciate some after-dinner specialty coffees or chocolates, but this is where the research in tip #2 will come in handy. Flowers, wine, a family-oriented board game or something homemade may or may not be appropriate, but you’ll never really know unless you ask. And if someone tells you that gifts aren’t required – ignore them. Meeting the parents without a gift in hand is a no-no. Period.
5. Avoid Tenuous Topics
Many people instinctively know that there are certain topics to avoid when meeting the parents, but because it isn’t immediately obvious to everyone, this tip needs to be stated blatantly: avoid all taboo topics. This includes anything currently in the news that could be debated, politics, s*x, religion and even sports. The only exceptions to this rule is if you are already absolutely positive that you and the parents agree on the subject – and even then don’t share more than is necessary. You are probably being tested if these kinds of questions come up, which is fine, but not to be covered when first meeting the parents if at all possible.
6. Politeness Counts When Meeting the Parents
It doesn’t matter who you interact with when meeting the parents. What does matter is how you treat your partners’ parents and other family members, as well as their personal property. This means pitching in when asked (or offering to help when the dishes need to be done), saying please and thank you, avoiding slang or casual terms like yup, treating annoying and/or frustrating family members (including pets) with kindness, putting the toilet seat down, and sitting with your knees together.
7. Above All Else, Be Yourself
This last tip may seem to counter some of the other tips mentioned here, but the intention is not to change who you are when meeting the parents. Instead, think of it as the opportunity to show your best face, where first impressions are crucial. Show who you are, stand tall, and don’t apologize for anything. Breathe, smile, and enjoy yourself. But most of all, be yourself. Your partner’s parents will appreciate your forthrightness and (hopefully) in turn see why their child fell in love with you in the first place.