Select Page

Dealing With the In-Laws…ARGH!

Dealing With the In-Laws…ARGH!

The holiday season should be filled with goodwill, and, if not peace on Earth, at least “peace in the family.” But too many times, holiday gatherings include in-laws that can be… (let’s just go ahead and say it) …difficult and controlling.

To ease anxiety over the coming holiday (and the coming in-laws), Parents & Kids asked Clinical Social Worker Specialist Laura Tracy Kinsey, of Gulf Coast Family Counseling Agency in Ocean Springs, how to best deal with the in-laws during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.

P&K: When disagreeing with an in-law over an issue or subject, what’s a good measuring tool on when to speak up and when to let it go?

Kinsey: When you disagree with an in-law you should probably not confront them during the holidays. There is no use starting conflict during a celebration. There is time enough to deal with the problem after the first of the year. If the problem isn’t big enough to be present after the first of the year, it isn’t worth worrying about in the first place. To resolve any issue with your spouse’s family, the first step is to understand the position of the other person. They are people with valid concerns from their own perspectives. With compassion for the other person, a solution can be reached. Even the most severely disturbed person will respond more positively to a person who approaches with understanding and compassion. 

P&K: Should you expect your spouse to step in and be on your side? Why or why not?

Kinsey: The spouse may need to step in to deal with the issue, but again, compassion for the spouse is important as well. These are people he or she grew up in conflict with. If they had been successful in the conflict it would already have been resolved. It may take creativity to reach a solution that no one was able to resolve before.

P&K: What’s a good way to replace “negative” comments with “positive” comments?

Kinsey: Positive comments flow out of positive thoughts. Positive thoughts grow out of compassion. Compassion is feeling the suffering of another person and wanting to offer aid. I like to ask myself before I say something, “If someone said these words to me, in this tone of voice, with this body language, how would I accept it?” That helps me find the right tone and the right words to help get my positive message across. Remember also, criticism never is constructive. It always tears down. Criticism is guaranteed to lead to defensiveness. Defensiveness leads to hard feelings.

P&K: What is the best way to handle the parenting role without stripping away the grandparenting role?

Kinsey: Grandparents are loving support for children. Parents are rules, boundaries and limitations for the child. Punishment is not what I mean by limits. Parents decide what behaviors are acceptable and grandparents get to blame the parents for the rules. It goes like this: Mother says the child cannot have any cookies before dinner. Grandmother tells the child what mother’s rule is and tells the child they have to follow the rule. The child begs for a cookie anyway. Grandmother says we can’t have any cookies, mother won’t let us. We have to wait till after dinner. The child says, that isn’t fair. Grandmother agrees that it isn’t fair but mother made the rule so we have to follow it.  Another example: Mother says you have to go to bed at 8 p.m. Child says he doesn’t want to go to bed. Grandmother says she understands. She doesn’t want to go to bed at that time either but those are mother’s rules. So, they get ready for bed even though no one wants to, because mother said so.

P&K: Christmas is the time of giving.  Is it also the time to “give” more understanding to the in-laws?

Kinsey: It is always time to offer understanding. Compassion and understanding always make a person feel better. Living in hostility and anger only hurts the person hanging on to resentment. Compassion leads to better emotional and physical health for the person practicing the compassion.

We hope this interview is the perfect gift you didn’t expect this year. Parents & Kids Magazine wishes you and your family good cheer, good health, and good relationships to make your holiday season the best ever!


Published Author and freelance writer Richelle Putnam serves as a Mississippi Arts Commission Roster/Teaching Artist and a Mississippi Humanities Speaker.

About The Author

Digital Issues


Coloring Contest

Facebook Feed



Get In The Know

Get In The Know

We've offered creative solutions for families in Mississippi for over 25 years. And we're the best at it.

Awesome! We've got some incredible resources headed your way!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This