Taking Everyone's Feelings into Consideration
Just like everyone gets to decide whether or not the time is right for you to meet the children, everyone is also allowed to have feelings about you and the meeting. The feelings may be unfounded or unfair; however, if you can consider everyone's feelings prior to meeting the children, you may find that you have an easier time being accepted into the family.
The Other Biological Parent's Feelings
The first meeting may be anxiety provoking for the other biological parent. For example, if your boyfriend had a long relationship before you and his children grew attached to that person, the biological mother may be worried that her children will be hurt again if your relationship with the biological father does not work out. This is a reasonable concern for the biological mother to have, as she is concerned about protecting the feelings of her children. If this is the case, it might be helpful for you to speak with her about when she would feel most comfortable with you meeting her children. It might mean waiting a little longer to meet the children, meeting the children as a friend of their father's and not necessarily a girlfriend, or limiting your contact with the children to certain occasions.
Be kind to the other biological parent. Be tolerant. You do not know the circumstances of the breakup; you know only one side of things. No matter how much you trust or love the person you are seeing now, you were not in their relationship. Try as hard as you can not to judge the other biological parent. Any breakup is difficult; when a child is involved, it tends to be much harder.
The biological parent also may be concerned about her children's safety. For example, if your boyfriend has made poor choices in the past in terms of who he exposes his children to, it would be natural for the biological mother to be concerned. This is another instance where meeting with her might put her fears at ease. If you do partake in risky behaviors such as excessive drinking or partying, you should think twice about whether you are capable of making a positive contribution to their lives.
A third hesitancy the biological parent may have typically arises when you are the first person to meet her children as a potential stepparent. In this case, the biological parent is likely to feel a range of emotions including fear, jealousy, sadness, or anger. The emotions felt might depend upon how the relationship with the other biological parent ended. Whether the biological parent has begun dating also may be significant. If she is successfully dating someone, she might not be as upset as she might be if she hasn't started dating or has endured a recent breakup.
The Child's Feelings
The age of the child is likely to have a great impact on her readiness to meet you and the emotions she has going into that meeting. How the breakup between her parents affected her is also likely to have an impact. Was there a lot of fighting? Is there still animosity? If so, the child may be meeting you with a negative outlook. No matter what the attitude of the child, it is your job to be the adult in the situation and be as kind as possible. This is a child who has, at the very least, suffered the breakup of her parents or a loss of a parent. Most children will form their own opinions of you, regardless of what people around them are saying. If you are genuinely nice to her and her parents and don't get involved in any drama, name calling or disputes, you will at least earn the respect of the child.
The Family of the Deceased Parent
In cases where the other biological parent has died, other family members, such as grandparents, may be closely involved in the care and upbringing of your boyfriend's child. If this is the case, it is likely they will have some input into when it is appropriate for you to meet the child. They may be dealing with feelings of fear and concern. First of all, they have lost a child; their connection to their child is the child you are about to meet. This could bring up concerns of abandonment for them: What if you replace their daughter as Mom to their grandchild? Will you take time away from their time with their grandchild? Will you somehow make the child forget about his mother and therefore not need the grandparents in his life anymore? In addition, they know this child has been through a painful experience already. How can they be sure you won't somehow hurt the child? Will you be around for a long time? Are you ill in any way?
This situation is another in which meeting with the grandparents or family members can be very helpful to their emotional health. It also provides an opportunity to learn about the other biological parent, which may be very nice for everyone. Be considerate; there has been a major loss, and everyone is simply trying to protect the mental health of the child.
Your Boyfriend's/Girlfriend's Feelings
Your significant other might seem fine with the meeting at first, and then get a little freaked out right before the meeting or after the fact. Keep in mind, this meeting also has implications for your relationship with your boyfriend. You are now on a different track relationship-wise, and this can be disorienting in its own right. It is akin to telling someone you love them, and then wondering if you should have said it. There is some finality to it once it has been said, and this can make people start acting weird or nervous. Be patient with your boyfriend. If he thought long and hard about having you meet his child, he may just need to revisit those thoughts to remind himself of the reasons he felt it was time for you to meet each other. Even if you don't get along well with his child at the first meeting, he will probably feel better if he knows you are open to continuing a relationship with him and his child after the meeting.