The Dos and Don’ts of Meeting the Parents

Dos Donts Meeting Parents

Meeting the parents this Thanksgiving? Here are a few helpful dos and don’ts to make the meeting a pleasant — or at least less stressful — one:

Do: Be on time.
You can only make a first impression once, and arriving on time is an easy way to make a good one.

Also helpful in making a good impression: dress appropriately for the occasion, go easy on the cologne and/or makeup, and smile.

Don’t: Go in unprepared.
Do a little research — essentially talking to your date — before you meet the parents. What do you need to know to make sure you don’t offend them? How would she describe her dad’s sense of humour? Be careful to steer clear of off-colour jokes or controversial conversation topics. Be aware of what’s culturally appropriate and inappropriate. And have a few topics ready to bring up that you know you and her parents have in common.

Do: Bring a gift.
If your date’s parents are hosting you, don’t arrive empty-handed. Bring a bottle of wine, flowers or a favourite homemade treat. Ask your date to help you out with gift suggestions so that you’ll bring something that will be appreciated and/or consumed.

P.S. It doesn’t hurt to follow up with a thank-you note a few days later either.

Don’t: Assume the worst.
“Meeting the parents” has an unfair negative connotation. Don’t go in with the assumption that your significant other’s parents will be critical and judgemental, expecting to find you unworthy of their child. If you must assume anything, assume that they’re happy that their son or daughter is happy and that they’re eager to get to know you and learn to love you, too.

Do: Brag about their kid for them.
Yes, your date’s parents know that their kid is a catch — but they want to know that you see and appreciate those same qualities they’re so proud of. Gush a little about your partner so they don’t have to. (Just be sure to rein in the PDA. They don’t need to see how much you’re into their kid physically. Awkward.)

Don’t: Forget to ask them questions.
It’s easy to treat meeting the parents like a job interview. It’s not. You don’t have to prove yourself worthy of their daughter or son. Instead, consider the meeting an opportunity to get to know your date better by learning about the people he/she loves dearly. Ask questions and show a real interest in what they have to say. Besides, your attentiveness will say more about your character than a monologue about your hometown ever will.

Do: Offer to pitch in.
Did you significant other’s mother make dinner? Offer to help clear the table or wash dishes. Look for opportunities to lend a helping hand. And show gratitude when do they serve you. Show them your conscientious, considerate side.

Don’t: Compare them to your parents.
Just as you don’t want to be judged by your date’s parents, don’t judge or compare them, either. They are not your parents. They raised their kids differently, see the world differently, and probably make dinner differently. Go in with an open mind and no real expectations other than the intention of getting to know them. (Be honest. You don’t really want two identical sets of your parents, do you?)

Do: Read the room.
Pay attention to how the evening is going. You might need to redirect the conversation if it’s getting uncomfortable, or end the night if it’s stretching out too long and no one knows how to say goodbye. If your date’s parents don’t seem to “get” your sense of humour, skip the jokes and embrace a more straightforward approach. Don’t steamroll the evening. Instead, be present in conversation and try to accommodate the personalities in the room.

Don’t: Overstay your welcome — or leave too quickly.
This one’s related to reading the room. Don’t run away immediately after dinner, but don’t sit on the couch for hours on end afterward either. Be intentional about giving your date’s parents your attention and quality time, then thank them for their generosity and leave before the night drags out too long. (Your date can help you plot out an exit strategy in advance if you struggle knowing when and how to leave.) It’s better to plan to see them again in the near future than to have them wishing you would just get out of their living room already.