Being involved with your ex in-laws is almost inevitable when your children are small. As the children grow older, it's still in your best interest as a divorced mother to encourage her children to remain close with their grandparents, as well as aunts and uncles on their father's side, regardless of her own personal feelings.
Of course dealing with ex in-laws can be dicey for a divorced mother and it's often a very difficult part of the divorce. And there is a moral issue at work too — for the sake of the children — you should be respectful of your ex in-laws. This means that you should keep the communication and visits between the grandparents, aunts and uncles and the children alive.
However, within this mix, there are some women who describe an alliance with their former mother-in-laws who took their side during the divorce or lamented the dissolution of the marriage. Conversely, there are many women who report that a perk of the divorce is not having to answer to their former mother-in-laws or sister-in-laws anymore.
To complicate matters, if and when your ex-husband remarries, there are times when your children are with their stepmother, their father and his parents. This can cause you to feel disenfranchised, especially if the divorce wasn't your idea. If the children are young (under the age of 10), these machinations can be confusing, and if they're adolescents or older, it can be upsetting and unsettling.
You need to convey to your children that you want them to see their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and value that they maintain these relationships. Some women say that when they've managed to continue a relationship with their former in-laws, that they learned how to forge a better relationship with their future in-laws. The most important aspect of dealing with one's ex in-laws is to always keep in mind the "greater good". For the sake of your kids, you need to be dignified and decent at all times even when it's hard.
Here are some simple rules:
1) Keep the communication and visits between your ex husband's parents, siblings and your children intact.
2) Don't allow your feelings to color the kids' impressions.
3) Learn what kind of daughter-in-law/sister-in-law you want to be in the future from your experience with your ex in-laws.
4) Think of the greater good theory, ie, your children deserve to have a relationship with your ex in-laws.
5)Don't allow your feelings about the kids' stepmother to get in the way of visits with the grandparents.
Susan Shapiro Barash is an academic and author of Tripping The Prom Queen: The Trueth About Women and Rivalry and Second Wives: The Pitfalls And Rewards Of Marrying Widowers And Divorced Men. For more on Susan go to www.susanshapirobarash.com.