The morning of my 13th birthday, I woke up to find a stranger in our home. She was my father’s latest girlfriend of a string of what seemed to be thousands, him having fully taken advantage of the sexual revolution as well as the "Me" Decade. Holly—the woman who would become my father’s life partner for 25 years, until the second he died in her lap—and I made polite but awkward introductions.
It would have been wiser for dad to set up meeting in a neutral place first, such as a park or restaurant, according to Boston-based stepparenting expert Judy Osborne, a psychotherapist and family therapist. Kids of any age need a discussion first about the new romantic interest. Younger kids are easier because they aren’t as guarded and don’t have as much history.
“Teenagers are not going to be that thrilled, because it implies in such a forceful way the sexuality of their parent,” Osborne says.
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Meeting your partner’s kids for the first time is a loaded event, no matter how serious you are about a future together. National etiquette expert and author Diane Gottsman, who has a special line of advice for stepfamilies, reminds everyone to think about the child’s perspective, which can be “as varied as candy.”
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