They'll understand if you don't call them "Mom" and "Dad."
Credit: Tec Petaja

It might feel like you've been grappling with what to call your partner's parents throughout the stages of your relationship, and especially now that you're about to become a part of the family. Whether you've done the whole Mr. and Mrs. deal up until now or have been on a first-name basis with your soon-to-be-in-laws from the get-go, you might not be ready to jump straight to the title of "Mom" and "Dad." After all, you might have your very own "Mom" and "Dad," so calling your in-laws by the same moniker might feel strange.

Here are some tips to help guide you through the process of choosing how to address your new set of, well, parents.

Consider the type of relationship you have with your in-laws.

Are you extremely close with one or both of them? Do you hardly ever speak, either because you don't share mutual interests or because you rarely get to see them? Let these factors help you decide what verbiage feels right. "Typically what you end up calling your in-laws denotes the kind of relationship that you have (or would like to have) with your in-laws," says Marissa Nelson, licensed marriage and family therapist. "Let this be a guide to growing and pouring love and time into your new family."

Know that the decision may take time.

You might not land on the right names for your in-laws right away-and if you don't, experts agree that's okay. "What you call your future family can and will also evolve over time, so allow yourself the grace to grow into the relationship and moniker," says Nelson. "Over time you may find that what you call them changes when you have children, you may be referring to them as Grandad or Yaya for example." Bottom line: Don't feel pressure to call them this or that name until you're ready.

If you are not sure how to address your new in-laws, be honest and tell them that.

Chances are, your in-laws may be more receptive to participating in this conversation than you'd imagine them to be. "Tell them directly that you want to be respectful and refer to them in whatever way they are comfortable with," suggests Kat Van Kirk, Ph.D., licensed marriage, family, and sex therapist. "This may earn you extra brownie points with them since it demonstrates that you care about them in general as well as their preferences."


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