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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

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  • Comment Link Zanna Thursday, 17 March 2016 18:29 posted by Zanna

    My ex mother in law has totally shunned me after 27 years of being with my ex and having known her for 40 years! She will not even mention my name; refuses to discuss anything about me and it is as if I never existed. The divorce was his idea and not mine and it was a bombshell. My kids are 24 and 23 years old and find the situation appalling.
    What do i do?

  • Comment Link Jean Thursday, 25 October 2012 16:49 posted by Jean

    Divorced in-laws 35 yrs later: I am divorced from my first husband, father of my children, for 35 years. I tried to keep a positive relationship with my in-laws because of the children, however my x-husband wanted his family to dislike me and told them not to have anything to do with me. His mother lied to me about his where abouts in the beginning (child support issues) and when I caught her in the lie I told her if she wanted to continue a relationship with her grandchildren she would have to stop lying. If she didn't want to tell me, then say that, but don't lie. I can't deal with people who lie and her son, my husband was a pathological liar. Over the years he continued to tell his family lies about me. He would lie and blame me for things his current women friends did to his family; such as irate phone calls to them. I unfortunately allow my 2 boys to go and live with their fatlher when they were 12 and 10yrs old. I felt it was a good thing to do at the time. I wanted them to know their father first hand. The boys would tell me a lot of what went on. I ignored all the personal accusations and had nothing to do with the in-laws except occassionally his oldest sister. But she told me that she was uncomfortable talking to with me because her brother had asked them not to communicate with me. She apologized but was afraid her family would punish her somehow if she continued. Two years ago my youngest son passed away after a long illness during which none of these people, including his father, visited him. His father came to the funeral and paid for half the expenses. I was civil as always and the things went smoothly with no negative incidents. Several weeks later my oldest son phoned me and asked me for his father's family if it would be okay to start communicating with me. I asked why now after all these years? I told my son I didn't see any reason to re-establish any relationships. I didn't know any of these people any more and what I did know about them, I didn't like. What would be the point? Was I wrong?