The Dos and Don’ts of Dealing With Your In-Laws
Posted by: Sue Atkins
From Christmas to Christenings we have to learn to get along with our in-laws. I was very blessed as I got on really well with mine before my mother -in -law developed Dementia. When she first washed my kitchen floor I had to pause to ponder whether she was suggesting that I was a hopeless homemaker or whether she was really great at spotting jobs that needed to be done to free up my time to look after my 2 little ones.
She was being kind, helpful and practical.
Mumsnet have created quite a storm with their thread about being critical and mean spirited about ‘in-laws’ during Boxing Day and I have been invited on to BBC Radio London to discuss the trials and tribulations and ways of handling in laws as well as celebrating and looking at changing your mindset around your partner’s family members.
Here are some simple tips to help you ‘Pause To Ponder’
- DON’T assume that family relationship will resemble the ones in your family. Don’t let your own family experiences (if they are rather negative) cloud and prevent you from having a wonderful relationship with your in laws.
- DO take the time to understand how your partner relates to his or her parents. Listen but don’t judge – there are 2 sides to every story remember. Don’t feed a weed as it will grow. If you look for the positive you will also find it. Step back and remember that you have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason. If you have children remember they are watching & listening and observing you all the time so be mindful of how you speak about your in-laws as they are your children’s grandparents.
- DO take the time to get to know your in-laws—if you’re separated by distance, write, Skype, WhatsApp or e-mail each other. See family times as building memories that last a lifetime for you, your family and for your kids. This helps you to focus on the bigger picture and long term relationship. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
- DON’T take offense easily—you may just not understand the family dynamic. Press your imaginary ‘Pause Button’ https://sueatkinsparentingcoach.com/2011/12/my-pause-button-technique/ it will serve you in good stead.
- DO check with your partner about family customs. Will his mother expect a gift or flowers for hosting a family event or will she be offended? How about a good old-fashioned thank-you note or text? Give a little thought to what your guests might like to eat, or their sense of humour, and steer clear of politics or religion. Be the’ bigger ‘person if they hold views that you don’t hold, unless you really feel compelled to challenge them. Keep the long-term picture of how you’d like your relationship to be with them.
- DON’T criticise your partner’s family. Rather, ask for explanations of things you don’t understand.
- DO be polite and friendly— be sincere, kind, tolerant and patient with them.
- DON’T assume they understand how you feel—they may not have any idea about how sensitive you may be to certain things, or understand the way you were brought up, or your life experiences. Try not to take their comments too personally. You may not understand what they meant.
- DO think about what will work best for you and your partner before you try to please your partner’s family.
- DON’T ignore your partner while you’re with your family. You can talk to your sister, but make sure you check in with each other frequently. Make sure everyone feels welcome, included and part of the family occasion.
- DO consider doing something that’s time-limited and easier – an activity like a walk in the park or if you go to dinner in a restaurant, everyone might be a bit better behaved as you are out in public.
- DON’T hesitate to ask your partner how it went when it’s over. A“debriefing” can help both of you.