Your in-laws are an endless source of entertainment, education and support for you and your children. However, well-meaning advice, never ending phone calls and “surprise” visits can quickly turn from endearing to overbearing. It can be an awkward subject to breech, but the sooner you resolve the issue with your smothering in-laws by establishing healthy boundaries, the quicker you can get back to living without the constant threat of criticism and the need to keep your house immaculately clean -- just-in-case.
1 Speak to your spouse and agree on some ground rules before talking to the in-laws. Keep in mind that these are your mate’s parents, so instead of name calling and yelling, approach the conversations with compassion and understanding. For example, tell your spouse that you feel his parents are smothering you, and that you want to speak to them about the subject.
2 Discuss boundaries with your spouse. Now that you’ve opened the lines of communication, it’s time to set some ground rules for the in-laws. For example, if the in-laws are constantly dropping by unannounced at the most inconvenient times, discuss only allowing them to visit between certain hours of the day. In addition, a quick, head’s-up phone call rule will also give you adequate time to pick up toys and perform a quick cleaning before your in-laws arrive.
3 Sit your in-laws down and have a frank, calm discussion. Focus on the Family recommends having the talk when everybody's in a happy mood. Remind them that their love and support is always welcome, but that they are the grandchildren’s parents, before laying down any ground rules. If your spouse flakes, (which might just happen), it’s up to you to remain firm, and to let your in-laws know how you feel.
4 Allow your in-laws to respond. The best-case scenario would be a tearful apology followed by free babysitting every Saturday night for the next six months. However, the reality of the situation might be in-laws who feel hurt, ashamed or disrespected. If this occurs, remember that they’re entitled to their opinions, but no matter what, stick to your guns. Once again, try to maintain your composure and answer their questions or respond to their feelings with patience and kindness.
5 Maintain the ground rules, no matter how difficult this becomes. Your in-laws might not be too receptive, and have no problem sharing their feelings, but it’s important for you and your spouse to stay on the same page and remain firm on the rules. If the in-laws are pulling away out of guilt or hurt, make it a point to invite them over and encourage them to spend time with their grandkids.
- Never let a disagreement between you and your in-laws affect their relationship with your kids. Remember your preschooler or toddler’s grandparents are a constant source of love, compassion and strength, and severing ties all together could devastate all parties involved.
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