My mother-in-law could ruin Christ­mas

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald - - Your Health -

My el­derly mother-in-law is not kind to my daugh­ter. She crit­i­cises ev­ery­thing – her clothes, her friends, the way she eats. She even crit­i­cises her skin and says her acne is caused by her lazy life­style and overuse of com­put­ers. She com­pares my daugh­ter, who is 14, to her cousins who are high­achiev­ers and her broth­ers (who hate the way their sis­ter is put down). Now my daugh­ter is threat­en­ing to boy­cott Christ­mas Day if my moth­erin-law comes to have lunch with us. My daugh­ter can be un­pre­dictable. Christ­mas is ru­ined and it’s not even De­cem­ber.

Mary-anne says: It’s an un­pleas­ant sit­u­a­tion and un­fair of your mother-in-law to draw at­ten­tion to your daugh­ter’s sup­posed faults. Four­teen is a vul­ner­a­ble age any­way with­out some­one un­der­min­ing her con­fi­dence. But host­ing Christ­mas din­ner is also stress­ful and you don’t need this un­der­cur­rent of hos­til­ity swirling be­neath pro­ceed­ings. It’s good that your daugh­ter has voiced her threats; bet­ter to have ad­vanced warn­ing rather than be am­bushed on the day.

Slam­ming the door on your mother-in-law or is­su­ing ul­ti­ma­tums might tem­po­rar­ily solve your Christ­mas lunch dilemma, but it doesn’t solve this problem in the long-term. And nor does it help your daugh­ter learn how to deal with tricky peo­ple in life. I think part of the an­swer lies in your open­ing sen­tence: my el­derly mother-in-law is not kind to my daugh­ter. This is the one thing your daugh­ter can most learn: kind­ness.

Some peo­ple think kind­ness is weak­ness but it’s not. It takes guts to be kind in the face of spite, ig­no­rance, or mis­guided ad­vice.

Be­ing el­derly can be fraught too. Your mother-in-law comes from a gen­er­a­tion where manners and hard work ruled and she is prob­a­bly crit­i­cis­ing out of love. An­other thing that might help would be a chat with your daugh­ter about the age­ing process. Some el­derly peo­ple, cer­tainly not all, lose per­spec­tive and fil­ters as they age. They don’t re­alise the hurt they are caus­ing when they crit­i­cise — or how loudly they are crit­i­cis­ing.

Why don’t you en­list your daugh­ter’s help for part of the meal? She could search on­line and find some­thing she’d like to cook, or some ta­ble set­ting she could make. It would give you both some­thing pos­i­tive to fo­cus on.

A ‘no de­vice’ cur­few for a chunk of Christ­mas Day would be an­other way of not an­tag­o­nis­ing her grand­mother, (that rule would have to ap­ply to ev­ery age group).

If your daugh­ter boy­cotts Christ­mas din­ner it will just re­in­force your mother-in-law’s opin­ions.

Good luck on this one, it’s no fun be­ing the referee when ev­ery­one else is play­ing. Hope­fully you won’t need your whis­tle.

With­out turn­ing the ta­bles or be­ing mean to the old lady, you could have a pass­word up your col­lec­tive fam­ily sleeve that you bring out if gen­er­a­tion war­fare erupts.

Mary-anne Scott has raised four boys and writ­ten two nov­els for young adults in­clud­ing Com­ing Home to Roost. As one of seven sis­ters there aren’t many par­ent­ing prob­lems she hasn’t talked over. To send her a ques­tion email­fax­me­ with Dear Mary-anne in the sub­ject line.

Some peo­ple lose per­spec­tive and fil­ters as they age, and don’t re­alise the hurt they are caus­ing when they crit­i­cise.

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