My former mother-in-law sees our children regularly. We never got along even before the divorce. She criticized me constantly. I could never do anything right including be a husband to her daughter. I know she has a right to visit her grandchildren but I don’t know how to handle this situation. The holidays are coming and I will be seeing my kids. I feel like I need to defend myself with them.
There is no more difficult task than meshing the old and the new after divorce.
She is not your mother-in-law anymore but she is a constant reminder of your former life. However, she has no control over you now. The family relationship has ended. The dynamic has changed.
Your former mother-in-law is still the children’s grandmother. If their relationship is positive in spite of the divorce then all you can do is accept that.
Your children have a different perspective because she is still their grandmother. Chances are they probably only view her as ‘granny’ and that is enough for them.
When a relationship like this is tainted the biggest challenge is to distance ourselves from it. Limit any discussion of ‘granny’ with your children. If it comes up in conversation then you can ask if they enjoyed their visit and keep any other discussion about granny minimal.
Ensure that their visits with you do not include any expectation to carry tales back and forth. Often children get caught in that. It can even happen quite by accident if they inadvertently offer information. It’s a delicate balance to stay focused on other things even for an adult. Be mindful of conversation drifting to negative comments and gently change the subject.
If any previous visits with granny have been upsetting for any reason then there is nothing wrong with checking in with them that everything is OK.
If anything is said by your children that needs addressing then keep it simple. If it requires a discussion with your Ex-wife then do so when your children are not around. Express your opinion or request without acrimony and listen to what she says. Second and third hand stories can get very distorted.
One of the most difficult tasks in our post -divorce life is letting go of emotional connection. Buttons are so easily pushed after going through the turmoil of divorce. Your former mother-in-law’s attitude toward you is really a part of your past and distancing yourself from her criticisms should be a goal.
It’s not easy to put aside the hurt and anger but children want nothing more than things to feel normal. They have been witness too many upsetting events and need love and support from every family member willing to give it to them including their grandmother.
Life after divorce is difficult enough without the turmoil being extended into your children’s lives. If there is reason to see her this holiday and it is a challenge to be friendly with her then opt for neutral.
We can only engage in arguments and anger if the participant is willing. Limit face to face time and keep any communication minimal. You are dealing with many emotions and need to look after yourself as well.
Focus on your relationship with your children. Actions speak louder than words in spite of what might have been previously said or they overheard.
Keep your relationship and visits with them positive. It is through those visits and your actions that your children will see you for you in your post-divorce life.
ABOUT LINDA SIMPSON
“I take strength from your calm, your honesty, and the hope you give me for my future.” Cheryl
Linda is a fresh voice in the divorce advice world. She offers a pragmatic, common sense approach to life after divorce issues based on over twenty years surviving and thriving following a very traumatic divorce.
As a single parent, her sons are an enormous source of joy in her life. She is a loving mother and grandmother to four delightful grandchildren.
She holds a degree from the University of Waterloo with concentrations in sociology and philosophy and guidance counselling certification from Queen’s University.
She is an accredited trainer for The Peace Education Foundation, a leader in conflict resolution training. The institute is ‘dedicated to educating children and adults in the dynamics of conflict resolution and promoting peacemaking skills in home, schools, and community.’
In a long and successful teaching career, she also served as a counsellor and workshop facilitator for SEL (social emotional learning) programming and The Peace Education Foundation throughout her school and school district and was a frequent conference presenter for SUNY Potsdam Faculty of Education USA.
She writes for The Divorce Magazine UK and her blog is seen regularly on Huffington Post Canada where the focus is life after divorce and parenting issues.
She is a writer and poet and is presently at work on a book based on her divorce experience.