by Dr. Dale V. Atkins, April 2011
If you have a daughter or son-in-law with whom you want to have a good relationship, make every effort to get to know her or him. Tell yourself that you WILL do everything possible to see this person through your adult child's eyes. When you do this, you are moving in the direction of creating a solid in-law connection.
At times, your relationship with your in-law child may play into some of your personal insecurities. You may notice that you two are having numerous misunderstandings. You may be fearful of saying the "wrong" thing, or you may not know what to do in a particular situation. What is important is to be open and accepting and refrain from offering your opinion or advice unless asked.
Make every effort to respect the couple's privacy in ways that are meaningful to them. And perhaps, the most difficult part of all, especially when you first become a parent-in-law, is to appreciate that you are no longer first in line for your adult child's affection or secrets. Their spouse is becoming the person to whom they turn for advice and counsel. Mourning the loss of that element of your relationship is, indeed, a step in the process of adapting to life as an in-law parent. But hopefully, as you experience the loss, you can recognize the gain.
You may love your daughter or son-in-law and may still feel uncomfortable being in "second place." If you don't like them, do not malign their character or tell your child what a terrible person their spouse is. Your adult child will surely defend their spouse and by sharing your dislike with them, you will alienate your child and strain your relationship. Attempt to work things out directly with your in-law child, and don't put your child between you.
If you never had a daughter or a son, be cautious about jumping at the chance to do things together. Your in-law child may not be as eager to have this relationship in the same way as you. Feel it out. If you are going to help, consult first. Be careful about forcing anything on your adult children. Although difficult to accept at times, the reality is that they are now creating their own MARRIED life together, with their own tastes, opinions, and decisions.
The most loving gift you can give your adult child is to fully welcome and accept his or her spouse into your heart as one of your own.
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