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Part 4 - Blessed Are Peacemakers: Setting The New Parental Paradigm (A Guideline For In-Laws)

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

While you may have “thought” your job was done (as far a appeasing your children) when they grew up, understood the house rules and then moved out, it’s time to realize that things have changed…and, as far a “appeasing” goes you may just have to go back to square one.

What’s important to understand is that now, there’s a new home, new “heads of household” and new rules to abide by (but this time they’re not yours).

Remember, LOVE is not necessarily something you feel, it is something you consciously choose to do and express. If there is tension between you and your new family member, you may need to STOP playing the martyr, the victim and the blame game and remember that when you point the finger at someone else, there are three pointing right back at YOU. For that reason experts suggest re-evaluating the “relationship”, and your “contributions” or lack there of to the tension and unfavorable situation.

1. Pokey-Mom: Staying involved and being helpful is one thing, but if you are trying to maintain control by poking your nose into your child’s (new) life in an effort to maintain, “control”, you very well may be overstepping your boundaries. From expecting your children to stay within close proximity to you to surprise visits and phone calls past an acceptable hours, and/or expecting them to reveal every aspect of their relationship to you are all indications that you may be over-involved, unwilling to relinquish control, and simply aggravating an already sensitive situation. Experts advise, “getting a life” (of your own) so you have something positive to focus on besides your grown children.

2. Mother Knows Best: Do you compare yourself to your new daughter-in-law? Are you still observing your child and his/her life with a judgmental, critical eye, ready to take control of the situation and “make it better”? While your intentions may be good, you actions may be conveying a completely different message. Remember, it’s not always what you say, but how you say it…and how your intentions and actions are perceived. Surely, your years of experience gives you an edge on “knowing something they don’t” but as direct products of a different generation and world, you may want to consider they too know something “you don’t”.

3. Remember Your Visitation Rights: No one is “arguing” that your children should continue to always feel comfortable and welcome in YOUR home and you in THEIRS. Still, experts suggest, establishing certain guidelines with adult offspring (and their families). They should be viewed as guests in your home and you, as a guest in theirs….and you must each be willing to abide by and respect the other’s person’s rules and regulations when paying a visit. If the circumstances are beyond your acceptable comfort level then YOU need to distance yourself from the uncomfortable environment and situation and simply make the decision to refrain from family gatherings or visiting.

4. Gain Control Of Your Growing Pains: While professionals point out that it’s never easy to accept that you’re job as a parent is “done” and your “babies” are all grown up….they remind parents that it’s simply a fact of life….and if you’ve done your job right your relationship will only grow better and stronger. Befriending your “child” and his/her new family and be excited about your new role in life will only encourage them to keep you in it. Pulling out your trump card as the “abandoned” victim will only push him/her (and the new family) further away.

5. Stay Neutral: While a parent’s first instinct is to protect their child, THIS may NOT be the ideal tactic when dealing with your married son/daughter. Experts suggest being available for support, but retain caution about judging or criticizing the spouse. Listen, and offer your experience, perhaps even share how YOU handled similar situations, then back up and back off. Boost your child’s confidence by accepting them as intelligent, capable adults and allow them to think about it and make their own decisions.

6. Fight Your Basic Instinct: It’s always easier to find fault with someone new, especially since getting use to him/her takes some time. Try to remember that the same principle holds true for your son/daughter. Whether they have known each other for a short or long time, married life takes some getting use to and a new dynamic MUST be set. Do not condemn the couple (even in your own heart and mind) but “cut them some slack” and give them the courtesy of getting to know YOU, but firstly getting to know and be comfortable with each other.

7. Instead of Flexing Your Muscles…Be Flexible: Remember how having a child changed your life? Well, consider you new son/daughter-in-law another child to your already established family. There are bound to be some challenges and perhaps even some changes on your part. Remember, even within your own family each child has it’s own individual and unique personality. Why should your son/daughter-in-law be any different? Once you accept that this new addition to your family is from a different background, with different experiences, “demands”, traditions, cultures, and expectations, the easier it will be to blend and assimilate. If you would like him/her to meld into your established rituals, you have to willingly and enthusiastically offer the same in return, even if it means “rising above” your comfort level and what you have been exposed or are use to.

Long Island Family Life & Parenting Articles > Part 4 - Blessed Are Peacemakers: Setting The New Parental Paradigm (A Guideline For In-Laws)

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