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How to Deal With My Boyfriend's Grown Children at a First-Time Dinner

by Maura Banar

Dating has morphed in the past few decades from something primarily enjoyed by teenagers and young adults to an activity that transcends age. In statistics from the years 2000 to 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that approximately half of all marriages end in divorce. Individuals who marry following a divorce may bring one or more children into the relationship. If you find yourself dating a man who has adult children, meeting them can be intimidating. Staying positive and speaking with your boyfriend about your concerns can help reduce the anxiety of making that first impression.

Use your sense of humor. A healthy sense of humor has the capacity to reduce the tension among you when first meeting. In addition, the slight elevations in heart rate and blood pressure that occur when laughing are followed by a relaxing of the body, notes MayoClinic.com. This can help everyone loosen up and break the tension. Avoid jokes that contain controversial content or are inappropriate in some way. Instead, stick to lighthearted, fun topics to keep a good conversation going.

Avoid "heavy" topics of conversation. In addition to keeping your humor out of the realm of controversy, avoid bringing up other topics of conversation that tend to have "pro" and "con" opinions. A good rule of thumb in this kind of conversation is if you think something could be misconstrued as controversial or could potentially stir emotions in an adverse way, avoid it. This is the opportunity to make your first impression; the memories should be of how nice, gracious, interesting or engaging you were, not that you brought up a taboo topic.

Ask about their lives, interests and work. A good way to take the attention away from you, the proverbial shiny new person in the room, is to ask your boyfriend's children about themselves. Open-ended questions, such as "What kind of work do you do?" and "What kind of music do you enjoy?" are more effective in encouraging more conversation than closed ended questions that can be answered with a "yes" or "no." Avoid, however, making the conversation about the children's mother, unless they bring the topic up. If they do, stick to superficial questions rather than delving into personal information that can make your boyfriend and his children wonder if you're thinking of being a "mom replacement."

Pay attention to your body language. Don't underestimate the importance of nonverbal cues such as a gentle touch, which can unconsciously trigger your boyfriend's children to feel closer to you. Effective approaches to open body language also include an honest smile, leaning slightly towards the person speaking and steady but relaxed eye contact, suggests the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. In contrast, crossing your arms or legs during dinner can cause them to react by backing off physically and emotionally.

About the Author

Maura Banar has been a professional writer since 2001 and is a psychotherapist. Her work has appeared in "Imagination, Cognition and Personality" and "Dreaming: The Journal of the International Association for the Study of Dreams." Banar received her Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Buffalo State College and her Master of Arts in mental health counseling from Medaille College.

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