LET’S ALL GET ALONG

Get­ting your par­ents and in-laws to move be­yond a cor­dial re­la­tion­ship can be tricky, es­pe­cially if they have lit­tle in com­mon. AZLINDA SAID has tips on what you can do.

Simply Her (Singapore) - - Parents 101 -

You may have been there be­fore: There’s a fam­ily gath­er­ing and your par­ents, along with your in-laws, ar­rive. They shake hands, ex­change greet­ings and promptly re­treat to sep­a­rate cor­ners of your home. Through­out the day, they barely make small talk with one another, even when you’re around them. Cue awk­ward si­lence. What do you do?

Take Turns with Each Party

Be proac­tive in mak­ing your par­ents and in-laws feel com­fort­able. Upon their ar­rival, make sure you en­ter­tain your par­ents first. Get your hus­band to do the same with his mum and dad. When each side has warmed up, switch roles – now it’s your turn to put your in-laws at ease while your spouse works on your par­ents.

It’s im­por­tant that, as a cou­ple, “you work as a team to make each of your par­ents feel wel­come”, says Vi­joo Ge­orge, a coun­sel­lor from Reach Coun­selling, which spe­cialises in mar­i­tal and fam­ily work.

Break­ing the Ice

It’s un­likely that com­mu­ni­ca­tion will hap­pen by chance be­tween the in-laws. You and your hus­band need to bridge this gap. So be pre­pared to start con­ver­sa­tion topics in or­der to get them to in­ter­act.

“Stick to neu­tral topics such as the weather, sports, food or the traf­fic sit­u­a­tion,” ad­vises Vi­joo. If both sets of par­ents don’t speak the same lan­guage, then you or your hus­band must be their trans­la­tor, to keep them in the loop.

You also need to an­tic­i­pate un­fore­seen sit­u­a­tions, like fill­ing any si­lence mid-con­ver­sa­tion. Keep the com­ments gen­eral – maybe bring up your fa­ther’s favourite foot­ball team or some­thing your in-laws re­cently bought. “You and your part­ner need to think on your feet. It’s im­por­tant to keep the at­mos­phere light and easy­go­ing,” adds Vi­joo.

Man­age Ex­pec­ta­tions

Let’s say both sets of par­ents rarely meet. Then it’s your duty to ed­u­cate your par­ents about your spouse’s per­son­al­ity and his fam­ily back­ground and his­tory, prior to any get­to­geth­ers. This is to pre­vent mis­un­der­stand­ings or ver­bal faux pas that may hap­pen dur­ing the rare oc­ca­sions that they do in­ter­act.

“Things can get out hand and the chances of con­flict aris­ing be­tween you, your hus­band and your in-laws will be high if there is a mis­un­der­stand­ing. So it’s im­por­tant that you and your hus­band are clear about what your bound­aries are, and set bound­aries for each set of par­ents as well.”

Find Com­mon Ground

In­clude your par­ents and in­laws in other ac­tiv­i­ties like pic­nics, zoo vis­its or even short

“Pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ships can be nur­tured and strength­ened when they are built on sin­cer­ity, un­der­stand­ing and re­spect.” – Es­ther Ng, psy­chother­a­pist from My Space Psy­chother­apy Ser­vices

trips, to give them more time to get to know one another. Be­ing in a re­laxed en­vi­ron­ment may put them in a friend­lier mood.

Es­ther Ng, psy­chother­a­pist from My Space Ps­cy­hother­apy Ser­vices, shares her ex­pe­ri­ence: “My mother and par­ents-in-law didn’t know each other be­fore they met for my mar­riage prepa­ra­tion. There were com­mon topics to dis­cuss when I gave birth, fol­lowed by the usual well-wishes in their own di­alect. But they re­ally got to know each other bet­ter when they took short trips to­gether – they now have a lot more to talk about.

“In fact, now that my mum is get­ting on in age, my mu­min-law helps take care of her when they go on trips. Pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ships can be nur­tured and strength­ened when they are built on sin­cer­ity, re­spect and un­der­stand­ing. It takes time, though.”

Know When to Give Up

As much as you want your par­ents and in-laws to gel with one another, don’t try too hard to make them con­nect on the same level if they re­peat­edly can’t, points out Vi­joo.

“Each fam­ily has a dif­fer­ent cul­ture and mind­set. Some in­laws may not have any­thing in com­mon at all and can’t re­late to one another, no mat­ter how hard they try.

“For ex­am­ple, if your par­ents love fish­ing but your in-laws don’t, they won’t be plan­ning a fish­ing trip to­gether any time soon. And it’s not your re­spon­si­bil­ity to make this work. You must come to terms with the fact that both sets of par­ents are just too dif­fer­ent, so don’t lose any sleep over this,” he adds.

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