The mere mention of in-laws may conjure up all sorts of horror stories, but the truth is many parents enjoy a close and loving relationship with their in-laws. A separation or divorce can interfere with that relationship, or make it worse.
Whether your relationship was close and loving, a horror story, or something in between, separation will likely have an impact. The true issue that creates problems is boundaries.
Even if a good relationship exists, an ongoing relationship with the in-laws can be perceived as a threat to the child (your co-parent and/or former partner) of the in-laws. If you continue to interact with your in-laws, this could contribute to friction in your relationship with your co-parent.
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Alternatively, if your relationship with the in-laws was already strained, then there can be concerns about them supporting your co-parent in a parenting dispute, or worse, participating in badmouthing you to the kids.
Being respectful of the fact that the in-laws primary relationship is with their own child can help minimize conflicts. So too can respecting their right to have a relationship with your kids as their grandparents.
The challenge is to always respect boundaries and relationships as everyone gets used to a new family structure post-separation.
If one’s parents are intrusive with their views, or have issues in terms of their time with or care of the grandchildren, it is up to their children to address and resolve those issues. When the child of those parents steps up, it can improve the co-parenting relationship which ultimately serves the well-being of the kids.
If issues remain, counselling first between the parents on how to manage the situation may be helpful. From there, it may be determined that including the in-laws would be productive.
Finally, here are some simple tips to keep in mind:
1. Talk with your co-parent first before addressing issues with their parents. Keep the discussion civil with no name calling, blame or shaming;
2. Discuss with your co-parent if you seek to have an ongoing relationship with their parents. Make sure your co-parent is comfortable with it;
3. If you have concern about the behaviour of the in-laws affecting the kids, rather than terminating contact, discuss strategies for safe contact.