We don’t need researchers to tell us: There is a difference about the in-law relationship. For one thing, the common family history we share with our family of origin makes for smoother communications; we’ve had years to learn each other’s signals and hot buttons, and we’re experienced in dealing with each other’s quirks. And we know, deep inside, that no matter how fierce the fighting gets, our love will survive.
With in-laws, we need to try a little harder. Grandparenting Foundation founder Arthur Kornhaber stresses two important areas to focus on:
Supporting the marriage – Let your children and their spouses know that their marriage is important to you. Don’t play one against the other, and avoid getting involved in their disputes.
One-on-one time – Build a relationship with your son-in-law or daughter-in-law as an individual, apart from the grandchildren and his or her spouse. Some of my own fondest memories of my late mother-in-law are of the hours we spent playing Scrabble™. As the tiles clicked by, conversation came easily and naturally, and we got to know and like each other, and become family.
Looking for a reason to go the extra mile with your daughter-in-law? With today’s divorce rate of over 50 percent, she may one day be your grandchildren’s custodial parent. So do what you can to help your kids’ marriage thrive, but don’t miss this chance to forge a friendship that will survive, and keep you in touch with your grandchildren, no matter what.
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Joy Elbaum is a freelance writer and lawyer with wide ranging interests.