By: Julie Weaver, LPC

Now that summer vacations are over and kids are back in school, fall is beginning, we start to think, ”When is the next vacation?” OK, so maybe that’s just me. Then I have the thought that Holidays will be just around the corner before we know it.

Well, this often brings us to the in-law thoughts. Maybe that’s just me too. There are no perfect in-laws. If you have some, please tell me where you got them, I did not think they existed! Don’t take me wrong though, my in-laws have some very redeeming qualities, but things just not always go perfect. But in reality we are really not all so perfect ourselves, are we? OK, so seriously, here are the questions that run through my head:

Where will the gatherings be? Will there be arguments over where it will be held? Who will get to have the holiday date specifically and who will be pushed to another day? Then my mind races on to “Will things go well?” Will I get things perfect this time?

And all the tenseness of the holidays is quickly back in my memory. We can push the thoughts away, but we will have to go back to holiday planning eventually. So how can we handle all the questions that build up in our minds?

Quick thoughts to ease the tension:

-Things do not have to be perfect.

-You do not have to have it all figured out today.

-You do not have to be the one to make all the decisions.

-Not all occasions have to be traditional/ formal every year?

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like the unknown. That is most likely my biggest anxiety producer for me. So, I like to think of possible situations and some contingency plans in advance. Let’s face it guys; I want a back-up plan. So, some things I want to be sure of. Maybe you do too.

Three questions to have solidified before making any call extended family to discuss holidays.

  1. What I would really like. (optimally)
  2. What I won’t agree to (absolutely)
  3. What I could live with (negotiable)

Some ideas that could change the face of holidays:

  • Try to negotiate on who to spend each holiday with, i.e., Thanksgiving with your parents, Christmas with your in laws.
  • Remember too that if you children you may want to have a special time just with your children to create some special memories and traditions of your own. Parents remember what that is like and hopefully will want to support that for you as well.

Now on to some suggestions for a better relationship with in laws:

  • Think of something in advance that you appreciate about them and remember to tell them when you meet with them or even when you call to make plans.

For example, “I love that potato casserole you make, do you think you could bring that for Thanksgiving dinner?” “I love that you give the children your undivided attention when they talk to you. That’s one thing that makes you an extra special grandparent. “

Think of some of this in advance (be prepared) and then also look for things you appreciate when you are with them as well.

  • Be sincere. Don’t use complements you do not mean. You want them to be sincere with you so set the example you want.
  • Don’t be brutally honest. There will be imperfect things about them, just as with you, but we don’t need to always discuss those, especially at holidays when things may already be tense.
  • Include them in as much of the planning as you can. But remember the three questions so you don’t offer a choice you have decided you cannot live with.
  • Give them the same grace you should give yourself. Things do not have to be perfect.
  • Remember to have fun.

 

For literature about relationships with in-laws, our counselor recommends books from this list.