In-laws can be both a blessing and a curse. But to your kids, they will always be family.

Whenever anyone goes through a split, it’s common to think that family and friends have to choose a side. However, this should never be the reality, and it’s definitely within your power as a coParent to change this mentality.

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When I went through a split myself, I actually made a point to talk to family and friends to assure them that they didn’t have to act differently. I told them how important it was for them to maintain a positive rapport with me, thus keeping a good relationship with my kids.

Nearly everyone I talked to about this was relieved. Turns out, a lot of people just don’t know how to react to uncomfortable situations, and then they end up being unsure, standoffish, or even awkward. By taking the lead in conversation and action, it’s made a huge difference for good, long-term relationships with my in-laws. Here’s what has worked for me.

Don’t shut them out.

The worst thing you can do is to cut your former in-laws out of your life because it’s essentially cutting them out of your children’s lives, too. This doesn’t mean that everything stays the same, but to your kids, they are still around and they’re still family. No matter what your circumstances are or were, try to swallow your pride and keep things cordial.  

Extend an invite for special occasions.

Think about what is typical for your kids. Does everyone gather for birthdays? Do you have specific traditions around holidays? You don’t have to maintain all of these practices, but you can pick a couple to keep active. This way, your kids can see that you have a positive relationship with their grandparents (or aunts, uncles, etc.), which will put their mind at ease.

Be friendly at social and sporting events.

If you are at the same event like a dance recital, basketball game, or school event, then don’t ignore them. I personally try to sit near my ex-in-laws at games they attend for my kids. This means a lot to my kids that they don’t have to choose to sit by me or them. Plus, it’s actually nice to catch up on some news or share stories.

Send the occasional email or text update.

If you had contact with your ex-in-laws before through email, text, or social media, then try to keep it up to some degree. Again, it doesn’t have to be at the same level, but it will mean the world to them to hear how it’s going in the kids’ lives.

Share pictures.

Along with the occasional email or text, a picture can go a long way. If you have school or sport pictures, share them! Or if your kids are wearing a gift or playing with a toy that the ex-in-laws sent, snap a quick picture and send it along. We all like hearing from people when they appreciate something we do, and this is definitely the case with ex-in-laws, too. It’s also a great way to show that you’re really making an effort to keep a positive relationship with the family.

Be flexible when it matters.

Every coParent situation has a schedule to adhere to, but sometimes being flexible with that schedule can make a world of difference in establishing a good relationship with ex-in-laws. If there’s a special event or a birthday that they’re trying to gather everyone for, be helpful instead of difficult. This doesn’t mean you have to change your plans all of the time to accommodate their needs. But if you’re willing to bend sometimes, it can have benefits for everyone.

Say positive things about your ex-in-laws to your kids.

This one might be the most difficult, but it could also be the most important. How your kids view your relationship with your ex-in-laws really does matter, and by showing your kids that you respect them, it will put their mind at ease. Did their grandma do something thoughtful? Is their uncle really clever? Say these things to your kids. Not only is this just a good example to be a positive person, but it will also do the important job of showing them that you like their family!

In-laws (even former in-laws) can be a wonderful asset when you have a good relationship with them. It’s never too late to start or continue that good relationship, which can have benefits to you and your kids for years to come.

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About Stacy Tornio

Stacy TornioStacy Tornio is a writer living in Wisconsin, along with her kids, two dogs, and a sassy black cat. She's written more than 15 books on topics like gardening, animals, and ideas to get kids and families outside. She and her two kids love to plan vacations in and around national parks.