One of the unexpected benefits of divorce for many people is no longer having to deal with their in-laws. If you have children, however, your spouse’s family will likely still be part of your life. It’s generally in a child’s best interests to continue having a relationship with all their grandparents as well as aunts, uncles and cousins. That means the adults in their lives need to find a way to maintain cordial relationships.
How can you do that if your former in-laws are disapproving or even hostile towards you? Even if you got along well enough when you were married, that may have changed with the divorce – especially if it was less than amicable.
Acknowledge their negative feelings
Don’t pretend like everything is fine if it isn’t. You can acknowledge that you know they’re angry or disappointed in you. Focus on the fact that their relationship with your child is important, so you want to keep things positive because that’s what’s best for them.
Take the initiative to include them
It may be easier and less stressful to ask your ex to do the necessary communication with their side of the family. However, keeping them informed might not be their strong suit. It can mean a lot even to hostile in-laws if you reach out and invite them to a school event, soccer championship game or birthday party.
You have a right not to be disparaged
Even if you’re doing your best to keep your feelings about your former in-laws to yourself in front of your child, they may not be reciprocating this effort. If you find out they’re speaking ill of you (or flat-out lying about you) while they’re with your child, you have a right to expect it to stop. It’s typically best if your ex talks with the offending relative. If they won’t, you may have to. Focus on how this negativity harms your child – not on how it affects you.
Some parents find it helpful to include a non-disparagement clause in their parenting plan. While it won’t stop people who are determined to say nasty things to or in front of your child, it will help place the onus on you and your co-parent to do your best to stop this behavior in yourselves and others.