By Dr. Gloria Horsley –
Getting through the holidays after a loss is always a challenge. One of the things that can make it especially difficult is finding the energy to deal with in-law issues. The problems are not new but after a loss your patience may wear thin. Here are some suggestions and thoughts to help you through troubled waters. Also remember Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukah are only one day. Anticipation of the event is sometimes far worse than the actual day.
Common In-law issues during the holidays
- Family Loyalty – Pull toward the biological family
“My wife feels guilty if we don’t spend Christmas with her parents.”
- One Big Happy Family
“I’m not married to my son-in-law’s mother. I’m sorry that she is a widow, but I just don’t want to invite her to my Christmas party. She is a black hole of need.”
- Traditional Expectations
“Holidays carry the expectation that we will attend all family gatherings. I would like to spend one Christmas Eve with just our family.”
- Cultural Differences
“My in-laws are orthodox and don’t like the fact that our family celebrates Santa.”
Dealing with in-law problems
- Identify the in-law problem.
- Own your response to in-law problem.
- Look for a workable solution.
- Act — do not react — and make changes early.
Tips for getting along with in-laws
- Give yourself and your in-laws permission to have some privacy and holiday thought-collecting time.
- Let your in-laws choose what they will contribute to the holiday.
- Don’t try to reform your in-laws. Let them give the kids candy.
Gift suggestions for hard-to-please in-laws
- Make a living Christmas card CD of the family and suggest they open it on Christmas.
- Write a positive story about your in-law and read it at a holiday gathering.
- Put an invitation to lunch or dinner in a wrapped gift box.
- Call to tell your in-law, “I am thinking of you.”
- Send a newspaper or magazine subscription that coincides with the in-law’s interests.
- Offer an evening of baby-sitting .
- Write a special note in your Christmas card to tell your in-laws of your appreciation for their role in your life and your spouse’s life.
Remember: You are setting the role model of how you will be treated as a future in-law. Take care of yourself this year and give yourself and those around you a role model of love and self care.
Gloria Horsley Ph.D. is a Marriage and Family Therapist living in San Francisco. She hosts the syndicated internet radio show, “Open to Hope.” She is president of Open to Hope. Her books include: The In-Law Survival Manual: Cultivating Healthy In-Law Relationships, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1997; Teen Grief Relief: Parenting with Understanding Support and Guidance, Rainbow Books, July 2007, and Real Men do Cry: The Eric Hipple Story, Quality of Life Books, 2008.