How to Be an Effective In-Law

Apr 28, 2024 | Experts Corner

How to Be an Effective In-Law

You know relationships are funny when your own children get married and have their own kids. While hopefully you have productive and positive relationships with them- often times it’s a real hardship when you as the ‘in-laws’ are not perceived or misunderstood. Let’s take a moment here and agree on one fact: your own grown children are experts with your behavior, knowing your habits and conversations and almost every nuance of your being. Your son-in-law or daughter-in-law who have not had the company of you for their entire lifetime, enter a new adventure and journey (in a short relative time) as they attempt to navigate their roles, behaviors… and get to learn your nuances and almost everything about you as the mother-in-law/father-in-law or grandparent to their children.

Recognize that your role in your child’s life has been downgraded.
You may have been the most important person in your son or daughter’s life until now. Once they’re married, though, their spouse assumes that role. Accepting this is a major step toward a healthy relationship.

Sound happy and positive when talking to or about your new daughter- or son-in-law.
Negativity will sour any relationship, so why not keep things focused on their good qualities? It may be hard to ignore their less-than-stellar traits or behavior, but for the sake of family bonding, staying on the bright side is a must.
Be generous in expressing love. Everyone in a family (especially young children) needs the emotional reassurance of loving words, gestures, and looks. Those who demand the least emotional attention may need it most.

Remember important details from their life.
Whether it’s a job promotion that was up in the air or a half-marathon they planned to run, show you care by following up with them on things you talked about in your last conversation. They’ll be touched that you remembered.
Welcome your son-in-law with open arms. That sounds obvious, but many parents resist a wholehearted embrace. If you accept that he’s the man your daughter has chosen, and respect that, you should be able to reach out and treat him as a valued addition to the family.

But don’t be nosy.
You don’t need every detail of their experience. You could simply ask, “How did the marathon go?” and then let them speak. When they’re done, say something encouraging like, “Even though you weren’t one of the top finishers, it’s a wonderful achievement that you ran the whole race.”

Play fair.
If you give your son a cashmere sweater for the holidays, don’t give your daughter-in-law a pair of goofy Santa socks. That will send a message of inequality. Give your daughter-in-law a gift of equal thought, value and taste.

Avoid choosing sides.
If the newlyweds are having a fight, stay out of it. You’ll always be on your child’s team anyway.

Keep your opinions to yourself.
Think they should give up their pricey gym memberships and save for a house? Even if you have their best interest at heart, keep mum. They don’t need your permission or approval and challenging them will only make them annoyed or defensive.

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