In-Law Etiquette
January 1997

“In-Law Etiquette,” Ensign, Jan. 1997, 71–72

In-Law Etiquette

As our children married and left home, my wife and I became increasingly aware that, to a surprising degree, we helped determine the quality of the relationship that developed between us and our children’s new families. To the extent that we are generally supportive and respectful of their new family units, we are received warmly in return. Here are some ideas that help foster good relationships between family members and their in-laws:

Be cheerful visitors. Whenever we visit in our children’s homes, we try to be positive and upbeat. We make a point not to criticize choices and decisions made by our children, especially if their decisions are generally responsible ones. It is sometimes difficult or ill-advised to refrain from giving unsolicited advice, but we’ve found that it usually is best not to. Rather, it is important that we cultivate a spirit of acceptance and love.

Respect privacy. When my wife and I visit our grown children, we sometimes hear exciting news, see emerging trouble spots, or even receive confidential information. Such things often need to be kept private and should only be shared with other family members carefully or with permission. When we learn of a pregnancy, a new Church assignment, a job move, or any other significant happening, we ask if we should tell other family members. If the answer is no or is tentative, we don’t share the news. This courtesy can save a lot of problems later.

Talk to both spouses. When we call our married children, we try to speak to both partners. This is especially important in the early years of marriage when the spouse may still feel out of place in our family circle. Kind words and an attitude of friendship will reassure them of our acceptance and their importance within the extended family.

Extend invitations unconditionally. We often extend invitations to our married children for family gatherings. We’ve found that it’s best not to require their attendance or to allow our feelings to be hurt if they choose not to come.

Baby-sit grandchildren on our terms. It has been our experience that baby-sitting our grandchildren can be delightful as long as it is on our terms and at our convenience. Generally we try not to change our plans under pressure from our children unless it seems warranted. Neither do we baby-sit so parents can work, except in necessary emergencies. We like to plan both work and play time with our grandchildren.

Discipline grandchildren with great care. We feel it is important to discipline grandchildren on occasion, but we do so very carefully and with restraint. It is better to distract them with better activities whenever possible and, when some form of discipline is required, to keep it to a minimum. We try to be respectful of the methods the parents favor in dealing with their children. If grandchildren are disciplined too much by their grandparents, they will not like to visit. On the other hand, much good can be accomplished with occasional, mild, and loving reproof as needed.—Garth Hanson, Provo, Utah