Quick question before I move on with this post…Do you call your parents-in-law "mom" and "dad"? My parents call their in-law parents mom and dad. I just recently started calling my in-laws mom and dad after 20 or so years, but none of my siblings spouses call them mom and dad, so I don't do it a lot. I don't think there's a right or wrong answer to this question. Everyone should do what they feel is right for them.
THERE'S NO "DREADED" IN MY IN-LAWS
From day one they have accepted me as their daughter. They have supported Mark and I in our journey together as husband and wife. They love and spoil our kids and have a way of making each of them feel as though they are the number one grandchild in the world. They are truly the best.
What is it that they have done that makes them (and my own parents) good in-laws? What can I do to prepare myself to be a good in-law? As I pondered my relationship with my in-laws, thought about my own parents as in-laws, and studied for my Marriage class this week, I have come up with 5 tips for being not only good in-laws, but fantastic in-laws.
5 TIPS FOR BEING GOOD IN-LAWS
Recognize early on that as in-laws, you must help define and protect the budding relationship of your child and his/her spouse. "Parents must give the newly married couple time to adjust and allow them to be independent" (Harper, 2005, 328). New couples must set up a boundary of sorts around their relationship and parents can help them best by respecting this boundary.
Recognize that it is important for "couples to develop their own traditions and have time together on special occasions (Harper 329).
As tempting as it is, try to make sure that you don't pressure your grown children to be at every family gathering. This was one of the hardest times in my own marriage, this blending of two families and creating our own traditions. Many argument was had between Mark and I as we tried to figure out how to balance time between our two families. Neither of us wanted to give up the traditions we had established growing up with our families. I don't know that we felt a ton of pressure from either side, but we definitely felt that either side would be disappointed if we weren't there. I love this advice for parents: "Understanding that expectations for family relationships have to change helps new parents-in-law help their children. Parents will do better to listen and not impose their opinions or feelings" (Harper 329).
Understand that you can still be close with your child and secure in your relationship with him or her without always having to be present (Harper 329). You don't want to be enmeshed with your child. "Enmeshment describes a process in which parents and children feel they always have to be together" (Harper 329). Seriously, you don't want to be THAT in-law. Please, my friends. Don't be enmeshed with your children. Love them, be close to them, but let them and their spouse do their thing.
Try to create a climate of safety in which your children and their spouses can express their feelings about how involved they want you to be. "When married children are treated with respect and love in this matter, they are more likely to want to spend more time with parents and extended family" (Harper 329-30). Keep the lines of communication open and be an ACTIVE LISTENER. Just listen and offer advice when they ask for advice.
Accept that your child's spouse may have differences and not follow your "family rules" and that's okay. Include them in your life. Ask for their opinions. Allow them to share their ideas and give them the opportunity to implement those ideas in some of your family activities.
"It is important for parents-in-law to find ways to personally build relationships with their children-in-law as individuals" (Harper 331).
I AM SO EXCITED TO BE AN IN-LAW
I cannot wait to be an in-law. I know it won't be easy to allow my children to leave the nest and start building their own with someone else. I know there will be bumps in the road, hurt feelings, and maybe even some arguments. But overall, I just hope that I can truly help my children-in-law to know that I love them, I accept them, and I am so thrilled that they are part of my family. I want to be there to celebrate with them when they have exciting family moments, to mourn with them in their sorrows, and support them through the hard times because that's what families should do for each other.
I pray for my future children-in-law all the time. I pray that they are healthy, that they are having experiences that will help them be the kind of spouse that each of my children need, and that they are developing a relationship with their Savior. I can't wait to meet each of them, wrap my arms around them (only if they like hugs though), and say, "Welcome to the family. We've been waiting for you."
CBS Sunday Morning. (2019, October 13). Jim Gaffigan on His In-Laws. Retrieved December 14, 2019, from https://youtu.be/MNpDl8gcOWg.
Harper, J. M. & Olsen, S. F. (2005). "Creating Healthy Ties With In-Laws and Extended Families." In C. H. Hart, L.D. Newell, E. Walton, & D.C. Dollahite (Eds.), Helping and healing our families: Principles and practices inspired by "The Family: A Proclamation to the World" (pp. 327-334). Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company.
“When children become adults, the relationship between parents and children changes. In healthy
But, time marches on and those sweet little voices have been replaced by grown up voices with grown up opinions and responsibilities which creates a shift in the power aspect of our relationships, which at times can be a little bit of a growing pain.
I’m not an expert in this new phase, not by any stretch of the imagination, but there are a few things I have learned that I would like to share with you.
Parents can be wrong and should admit when they are wrong.
This has been of huge importance at our home. I used to use the phrase, “I’m the parent and you’re the child, that’s why.” Have you ever heard Heavenly Father use this phrase? I’m not a scholar of the scriptures, but I cannot think of a time when He has said that phrase. Unlike our perfect Father in Heaven, I am not a perfect parent and I get things wrong sometimes. One of the best lessons I feel I can teach my children is to know when you are wrong and admit it. Humility is essential in our progression towards perfection and it goes a long way in this world when you can say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong.”
“Parents still have the right to set household rules concerning appropriate behavior in their house, but they no longer have the right or responsibility to tell their adult children what to do” (Miller 2008, 2).
I had a goal when my son came home from his mission. That goal was to treat him like the “20-year old adult who has been living on his own for the past two years” that he is. As much as I would have liked to coddle him, make sure he wears his coat when going outside, and all the other things that mothers of little kids do, I knew that I couldn’t. It would not have been healthy for our relationship and again, if I am striving to learn how to parent as my Heavenly Parents do, this would not have helped me along that journey.
Be there when you are needed and show an increase of love.
Being a young adult is tough and just because your child has entered this new phase, does not mean that he/she does not need your support any longer. There are lots of ways you can continue to show your love and support to them through their young adult years. I found a great article in the Ensign magazine that offers 10 tips for parents of young adults.
5. Trust them with their decisions. “This doesn’t mean believing that they will always make perfect choices. It means trusting that they can be resilient, that God is forgiving, and that life can be deeply meaningful even when it includes overcoming failure or enduring trials. Young children can be scarred by trauma, but young adults grow from overcoming obstacles rather than avoiding them. Provide emotional and practical support, encourage breaks from the stress, pray with and for them, and inject a little humor.”
6. Praise them for their efforts. Who doesn’t like to receive a little recognition for their effort? Failure is a part of life but can be discouraging. Praise your child for their efforts and love them through painful failures.
7. Seek for inspiration. I could not live without the Holy Ghost. He has guided me so many times in so many situations.
8. Talk about money. Don’t assume that your child knows how to create and manage a budget, or use credit cards, or any other financial concepts. Talk openly with them. See if they have questions. Show them what has worked for you and then support them as they figure out what works for them.
9. Be humble. This goes back to my very first observation…admit when you are wrong and own it.
10. Measure true success. “When we focus too much on how others will judge us for our children’s choices (either for good or bad), we lose objectivity, and we often lose the Spirit. Remember that our success as parents is not defined by how well our children live our values but by how consistently and selflessly we live them.”
Truth be told…I am excited for this phase of life. I know that parenting adult children brings with it heartache, worry, sorrow, and pain as things happen in their lives that you can’t control. It’s hard to watch your children be in pain or sorrow.
But, I also know that parenting adult children can bring with it joy, celebration, and love as you watch them grow into the people that Heavenly Father wants them to be. I look forward to the new adventures this phase of parenting will bring and pray that the Lord will help me be the best mother I can be in every phase.
Richard B. Miller, “Who Is the Boss? Power Relationships in Families.” BYU Conference on Family Life, Brigham Young University, March 28, 2009.
Ulrich, Wendy, "Ten Tips for Parents of Young Adults." Ensign, July 2014.
WHY ETERNAL FAMILIES?
This page is dedicated to sharing information regarding God's plan for families, how we can strengthen our family relationships, and how the Savior can heal even the most broken of hearts.