4 Tips for Meeting the Parents This Thanksgiving

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM today:

So, you are spending Thanksgiving with your partner’s parents…and you have never met before. Talk about being thrown into the deep end of the pool! Meeting the parents is always a nerve-wracking occasion, but mixing it with a major holiday ups the ante even further.

Here are a few tips for you:

1)   Very often, things go awry when we have unspoken expectations, so talk to your partner before the visit. You can ask questions like, what does your family get-together usually look like? Do the women cook and then the men clean up? Do you want me to hang out with you, or can I ditch you to play Wii with the kids and gossip about the Kardashians with your sister? Does your mom make us say one thing we are grateful for around the dinner table? Getting answers to these questions will not only help you feel more prepared, but will also give your partner a chance to warn you about anything that you might want to know ahead of time. Like the fact that Aunt Gerta has a huge mole on her chin, and is super self-conscious about it.

2)   Everyone likes to talk about themselves, so find out what your partner’s family is passionate about. If his mom is crazy about gardening, then you might want to brush up on the basics of this hobby beforehand so you have some good questions to ask her. If her brother just had a baby, then be prepared to ask about the joys and trials of being a new parent. If his dad is a Toronto Bluejays fan? Well, that’s a tough one. Just be prepared to fake enthusiasm. In all seriousness though, ask questions. Be interested about their lives. Seize the opportunity to learn everything you can about your partner as a kid. This is all good information to have, and they will appreciate your effort.

3)   When the family asks questions about your relationship, be warm and respectful of your partner. Remember, your partner has been a part of their world a lot longer than he has been in yours. This is not the time to bring up the fact that he likes to cheat at board games or falls asleep during staff meetings at work. Emphasize the things that you appreciate about her and the reasons you enjoy spending time together. Not only will your partner appreciate the feedback, but you will be complimenting her family too. After all, they have played a role in how she has turned out.

4)   Get feedback after the holiday is over and you have returned to normal life. If you have long-term plans with your partner, you will run into his family again, so find out what his perspective was on the experience. If you royally screwed up, you can make adjustments (or apologies) when you see them again. If you knocked it out of the park, then you have a road-map for the next time you go for a visit.

Above all, relax, have fun and enjoy the turkey!