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Family dynamics

04th Jun 2022

Mother-in-law overstepping the mark? Here’s how to handle her

Laura Cunningham

It’s a relationship that’s often wonderful, but often complicated

Whether you’re in the newborn phase, or four kids deep, a grandparent overstepping the mark can be a very stressful thing.

If you’re lucky enough to have help from parents on either side, you’re probably very grateful for it. But what if that help always comes with a side order of unsolicited advice? Or when visits are every other day?

Here’s five things to keep in mind if your mother-in-law has crossed the line from helping, to interfering.

Decide what your boundaries are

There’s no point trying to change things, before establishing exactly what and why you want to change it. Is she in your home too much? Is her advice not welcome? Is she taking over? Or trying to parent your children in a way you don’t agree with?

Once you’ve established exactly what lines have been crossed, then you can approach your other half and establish some boundaries. After all, “I’d like to keep visits at once a week” is bound to go down better than “Get your mam away from me!”.

Be unified

Once you’ve gently approached your other half, make sure you’re approaching the situation as a team. The message needs to come from both of you – if your partner is just the messenger, it might cause undue tension. “Mary thinks you’re too…” isn’t a constructive chat, it’s a bitching session in the making.

Have an open mind

There is little to be gained from being bull-headed. Try to see things from your parent-in-law’s perspective. 9 times out of 10, their actions are coming from a place of love. Yes, there’s a danger of them presuming they know more because they’ve done it all before, but they’re trying to apply that experience to help, however annoying it might be at times.

Try to see the positives in them, and in the help they’re giving, before you blow your top.

Pick your battles

Not everyone gets on, and that’s ok. But letting every little thing bother you will drive you crazy. When something irks you, ask yourself, would this be as annoying if someone else did it? If not, take a deep breath and let it go.

If all else fails

If nothing it working, firmly reinforcing your boundaries is the only way. If they’re calling around too much – don’t answer the door. The advice starts up again? Sorry, I just need to take this call.

You’ve got this!

Survey says parents favour the youngest child but grandparents prefer the eldest