"Mom, Dad…Meet My Someone!"

You’re on your way to campus to meet your child’s significant other for the first time. They haven’t told you much about them but you could tell by last week’s conversation that this was someone your child definitely liked as more than a friend. You call to let them know you’re almost at their dormitory and to meet you outside so you can drive everyone to the restaurant they picked. Just as you park the car, you see your child rounding the corner holding hands with…well, someone you didn’t expect them to be holding hands with.

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Perhaps the person by your son or daughter’s side is much taller or shorter. Maybe they are a different race. They could even be exactly like your child, right down to the gender. For some parents, the only factor worth noting is if their child is happy with this person but for others, their child’s choice in mate could come as a shock. If you’re the latter, how should you react?

There is a reason why your child may have omitted some details when they asked you to meet the person on their arm. If your child is was raised in a small town with little diversity, strong religious beliefs and low tolerance for anything other than the norm, they may have been waiting to express their preferences until they were in a more accepting environment. They could have looked at your relationship with your significant other and assumed you wouldn’t agree with their partner. Your child also may have felt an in-person introduction would give their significant other the opportunity to win you over just as they had them. Whatever their logic may be, one thing is certain: This is a person your child obviously has strong enough feelings for that they felt compelled to introduce them to you, a member of their family.

Even if you are uncomfortable initially, do your best to make both your child and significant other feel comfortable during the visit. Learn the basics like where they are from, what their major is and why they selected this particular college before inquiring about their family, friends, interests outside of school and how they met your child. Your son or daughter probably told them a lot about you already but be ready to reveal some information about yourself as well. If any aspects of your lives – small or large – match up, let them know, as it will put them more at ease. This is a conversation, not an interview, so keep the tone friendly and keep any judgments to yourself for the time being. When your time together is over, say goodbye to both your child and their partner and make tentative plans to see them again soon.

At this point, you will probably be more comfortable than you were at the beginning of the meeting but if you aren’t, don’t let on in person. Give your child a call on their cell phone the next day for a one-on-one chat and ask any lingering questions pertaining to the prior day’s events. This isn’t necessarily going to be the person your child spends the rest of their life with but, at the same time, it very well could be; if you fly off the handle now, your child may never feel comfortable introducing you to a significant other again or, worse, sever their ties with you all together. We highly doubt that’s really what you want.

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