A seminary professor once told me (Rodney), “You can have conflict without change, but you cannot have change without some amount of conflict.” Profound statement don’t you think? This premise can also be the starting of some healthy steps you can establish with new In Laws.
The marriage of an adult child signals a change in family leadership and decision-making power —and your new son- or daughter-in-law is on that new leadership team. In fact, this “new kid on the block” is part of the reason for all the change. Conflict can certainly follow, if you let it.
Sure, for 18 years or more, you’ve given permission or approval on most major issues in your child’s life. With marriage, everything changes; and hear this loud and clear: It should change. Your ongoing role as parents, as painful as it may be, is to teach your children to decide for themselves. This transition should be complete by the time marriage occurs. It’s dysfunctional for a parent to have a say in major decisions of a newlyweds’ marriage. But it happens, and when it does, the table is set for more conflict.
Marriage also brings about a change to the parents’ home. The nest is emptier, if not empty. This can be painful. Time is moving and waits for no marriage. Some new parents-in-law wrestle with this truth by attempting to maintain control of their children’s new marriage. This unfortunate reaction does nothing to help the in-law image.
The Healthy Approach
So how do you embrace the in-law role in a healthy way?
1. Think big picture. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Your newly-married adult child and his or her spouse won’t do everything the same way you did at their age. It’s OK. Choose your areas of concern carefully, and make them few. You made mistakes; so will they.
2. Express confidence in your newlyweds. Point out what they’re doing right. Be their cheerleaders. Newlyweds often are insecure as they establish a house and a home. An affirmation from a mom- or dad-in-law will go a long way. Plus, this approach will keep the door of communication open should they decide to consult you on weightier issues down the road.
3. Pray for your son or daughter’s mate. Remember starting out life with your mate? It was tough, full of unknowns, and, well, scary. The entire world expected you two to have it all together immediately, or so it seemed. Newlyweds are young and inexperienced. They need the Lord’s guidance. Ask the Lord to give them wisdom far beyond their years.
And what a joy for this new family member to know you’re praying for them! Your son- or daughter-in-law will sense if you are diligently praying. It’s the best thing you can do for your in-law relationship.
Your attitude also will be affected as you sincerely pray. Lifting your new family member to the Lord will guide your perspective and provide love and encouragement to your child’s mate.
Bottom line? This in-law thing is doable. (Just read some of the positive e-mails we received about wonderful mothers-in-law on pp. 26-28.) No, not all personalities perfectly blend with one another, but all things are possible with God (Mark 10:27).
This article is shared with us courtesy of HomeLife and was originally posted on the great resource web site of Lifeway.com. It is written by Rodney and Selma Wilson, who are authors and speakers on marriage and family.