When your child marries, your family gains another person to love and nurture. These relationships can be challenging for some families, but they also can be precious. So how do you navigate these relationships as a mother-in-law to make them the best they can be?
- First and foremost, pray for your child’s spouse. Just as you prayed for your own children as they were growing up and into adults, pray for your sons-in-law and daughters-in-law. Be intentional. Ask them how you can pray for them and actually pray for them daily. Tell them you prayed for them and their request.
- You’re not their mother; be their friend. Relationships with your sons-in-law and daughters-in-law can really be precious if you approach them as a friendship. Determine what their interests might be and invest some time in learning more about what they care about so your conversations can be richer. My son-in-law loves to cook. I have found there are so many ways I can help him in the kitchen while spending quality time with him. No one else in our family cooks, so it is usually just the two of us working on an amazing meal. It’s time I really enjoy spending with him, and I’ve actually learned some new recipes and new cooking techniques!
- Don’t offer advice unless you are asked. It can be really hard to hold your opinions or advice when you are dealing with your children. With your sons-in-law and daughters-in-law, I believe you have to respect them as adults and be available if they need you, but don’t get involved in their decisions. This becomes especially hard when your children become parents. It takes practice. It takes reminding yourself that you don’t have to have an opinion about everything or be the expert because you are the parent or you are older. I don’t always get this right; I’ve shared more than I should at times. I think the best way you can help your children is through modeling good decisions and talking about people who make good decisions.
- Encourage your children not to share marital problems with you. You will always be your child’s parent, and it is impossible to stop caring and protecting your child. If your grown children are sharing their marital challenges with you, it can create a wedge between you and your children’s spouses. Encourage them to get Christian counseling, find an older Christian couple (who are biblically sound) to pour into them as a couple, or encourage them to talk to their pastor. (This approach would not apply to abuse in their marriage—this is where your children’s safety is most important and you should be a safe person for him or her to talk to.)
- Be an encourager and speak life-giving words. We live in a broken world. Everyone has something difficult in their lives. Remind your sons-in-law and daughters-in-law what they excel in, encourage them through a tough time, and say that you believe in and love them. Say it out loud. I believe sometimes we assume they know, but many times they don’t. There may be encouraging words you can say that they have never heard before. Thank them for loving your children well. If your child and his or her spouse are parents, tell them they are a good dad and a good mom. I’ve learned that many young parents are never told they are doing a good job; they are only criticized.
Enjoy your adult children. This season of life can really be amazing, and you can spend some precious time together, providing more opportunities for you to have meaningful relationships with your adult children.
Faith Whatley is currently the Director of Author & Strategic Partnerships for the Resources Division at LifeWay. Faith served as the Director of Adult Ministry (2012-2018), Director of Church Ministry Training & Events (2007-2011), Director of Women’s Ministry (2004-2007), and the Director of Women’s Events (1998-2004) when the Living Proof Live events were launched. She has been at LifeWay for 28 years. Most importantly, she is a wife and mother. She has been married 32 years to Jim, and they have two grown children who are married. This year, Faith and Jimmy became grandparents for the first time to a precious little boy named Jameson, and a second grandbaby is due in October. The Whatleys are active members at Gladeville Baptist Church.