The holidays are in full swing, and you're busy prepping, shopping, wrapping, cooking, and decorating and counting down the days until your children who've moved away come home for the holidays. This year, your child is bringing their new significant other to meet you and the rest of the family for the first time. Your son tells you that this is the love of his life, or your daughter excitedly says, "he's the one!"
You're anxious and excited, and you already have a mental picture of this potential future daughter or son-in-law or longterm addition to your family.
My Christmas wish for you is that they live up to that picture and that this new addition fits in so well it feels like they were always a part of your family.
But what if they don't? For whatever reason, you can't seem to click with the new flame, you just don't like them, or you think they're all wrong for your kid. It happens.
As a parent, it's tough to hold back on our opinions on our children's choices, especially when it comes to a decision as crucial as a committed partner. But what do we do if we see what feels like a train wreck relationship?
Consider that you might be wrong. I know this is tough, but it's entirely possible. He or she might not be someone you would choose, but this person meets a need for your child or they wouldn't be with them. That need might seem superficial or fleeting, or it might be much more profound than you can understand. Trust that you didn't raise an idiot and there is a reason they chose this particular person.
Give them a chance. At least get through the entire visit before you've made up your mind to dislike them forever. Try to find something you admire about them. The fact that they love your child puts you on the same team, so try to explore their beliefs, goals, areas of interest, or background. You're bound to find something to build on, or at least identify what your son or daughter finds so special about this person.
Know when to drop it. They might be your little boy or girl, but they are adults and have the right to make their own decisions and their own mistakes. Don't bombard them with your criticisms or state your dislike every time you talk to them. Pretty soon, they won't want to talk to you at all.
If you can't stay quiet, state your objections or concerns lovingly and thoughtfully, but only once. If they decide to continue dating, living with, or marrying this person, it's up to you to accept their choice and establish a working relationship with your child's choice of mate.
Check it at the door. Leave these behind...racism, bias, homophobia, religious beliefs, and prejudice. Don't let pre-conceived opinions, judgments, or positions run the show. Open your heart and mind and let this new person help you understand a new culture or belief. Your world will be the richer for it.
Ultimatums don't work. Forcing an adult child to make a choice between you, your family and the person they love always ends badly. If you want to remain in your child's life or be a presence in the life of future grandchildren, don't be tempted to draw a line in the sand.
Don't bad mouth the new flame. Just because you don't like him or her, doesn't mean that the rest of the family won't either. Resist the temptation to get others on your side in an attempt to convince your child that they are with the wrong person. If you try to win, you will undoubtedly lose. Maybe the relationship will run its course on its own, but your child will forever resent your interference and might even blame you for the breakup.
Never say, "I told you so!" Refrain from voicing all of your objections if they break up or state that you "saw it coming" or "he was a jerk" or "she was all wrong for you." Many relationships boomerang. Think about how many times you thought about leaving your spouse but didn't and it all worked out. If they get back together, it will be impossible to erase those comments from your child's mind, and the relationship with your child and their mate will forever be tainted.
Be a grown-up. You are older and wise, and while this might mean you know what's best for your child, it also means that it's up to you to show your child how to be gracious and open-hearted once the choice is made.
They need your approval. All we want in the end is to have happy, healthy children, and your disapproval might harm them far more than the unapproved girl or boyfriend. Remember, no matter how adult your child finally grows, your approval always matters because it is always valued. Even adult children still want to shine in parental eyes. If it didn't, they wouldn't have bothered bringing their new partner to meet you.