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Advice for an In-Law

"Parents and their married children can resolve differing points of view in a mature and gracious manner," says Dr. Howard Hendricks of Dallas Theological Seminary.

Parents will find the following guidelines helpful in avoiding such conflicts, keeping their in-law relationships strong and healthy and contributing to the success of their children's marriage:

  1. Don't give advice unless the young couple specifically asks for it. Even if they ask your opinion, be careful how the counsel is given. Do not preach or lecture. Instead, simply suggest solutions, giving the couple freedom to accept or reject them.
  2. Don't offer financial aid unless the young couple explicitly requests it. It is important for the couple to establish their independence - emotionally and financially. As difficult as it may be to watch your child and his or her spouse face financial struggles, realize that those trials are valuable for them as they develop their life together.
  3. Keep your personal questions to a minimum. Remember, a couple's primary allegiance should be to each other, not to either set of parents. The new couple needs privacy in order to develop a meaningful relationship.
  4. Respect the couple's confidence when they confide in you. Don't repeat what they have told you to friends or other relatives, or you may lost their trust — and rightfully so.
  5. Don't expect the new couple to live according to your standards and values. Your child and his or her spouse are individuals starting their own home. They need to develop their own family traditions, independent of those observed by their parents.
  6. Let go of your offspring, giving the couple room to live their own lives. Rather than living through your children's lives, find activities of your own. Don't expect the couple to spend excessive amounts of time with you. Only by letting go will you be able to build a healthy relationship with them.
  7. Treat the couple with respect, and don't belittle them or their decisions. They may have a lot to learn, but they need to learn these lessons themselves. Allow them to make their own mistakes, and don't adopt an "I-told-you-so" attitude if they fail.
  8. Don't expect your in-law to call you "Mom" or "Dad." He or she may feel most comfortable using your first names. Accept the decision gracefully — don't make a major issue out of it.
  9. Take a genuine interest in your new in-law as a person. Try to find out about his or her interests. Attempt to relate to your in-law in a meaningful way and on his or her terms.
  10. Don't treat your in-law as a rival who has stolen your child's love. Welcome the new addition into your family - you'll multiply the love, rather than divide it.
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Copyright © 1996, Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured.

Next in this Series: Dr. Bill Maier on In-Laws

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