Q: I’m a widow with one adult daughter who married a great guy three years ago. They had a very small wedding in another country and I didn’t have the opportunity to meet my son-in-law’s father (who is single) until last Christmas. We have been secretly seeing each other ever since. We both thought it would be something casual and secretly exciting and decided not to tell the kids. But now we are talking about marriage and we have no idea how to approach the subject. What is good ex-etiquette?

A: Excuse us for laughing, but it’s usually the kids who are afraid to tell the parents of their antics. And believe it or not, you’re not alone — lots of people have written us in your predicament. The problem started when you were sneaking around in the first place.

Don’t get us wrong, we get the romantic intrigue connected with a secret rendezvous, but this was your daughter’s father-in-law! If the guy was not related to anyone and the story ended badly, no one but you would have been hurt. As it was, you both took a huge chance. If he had been a jerk it might have affected your relationship with your son-in-law, his extended family, even your daughter.

But now it seems like congratulations are in order, so how to tell the kids? We suggest letting Ex-Etiquette Rule No. 7 be your guide. “Be honest and straightforward,” and in this case that means when they ask the inevitable question, “Why didn’t you tell us?” or even “What were you thinking?” tell them the truth — “We were embarrassed” or “We knew we were taking a chance and didn’t want to hurt anyone” — whatever you feel is appropriate. But don’t diminish their shock and possible feelings of betrayal by acting like it was no big deal because to them, it probably will be.

Our advice is to tell everyone in the immediate family (or as many as you can) at the same time. Otherwise you will have children being offended that you told one daughter or son before the other and they may read that as favoritism, a complication you don’t need at this point. If you must tell one child before another because he or she lives far away, don’t let days go by between the announcements. This may even be a great time to Skype. Also, we suggest that you don’t tell one side of the family and not the other.

Finally, we have seen these pairings work out quite well. But, from this point on, don’t keep important information from your family. In families especially, dishonesty can backfire.

Dr. Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband’s ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of “Exetiquette for Parents,” are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com). 

— McClatchy-Tribune