Don’t ask and don’t tell. Don’t ask your son and daughter-in-law when they’re planning to have kids; they’ll tell you when they’re ready and don’t need the pressure of questions beforehand. Don’t tell them that you expect what may be unreasonable to them: being invited into the delivery room when grandchildren are born, being asked to move in to help with baby care, to be called a certain name by your grandchildren, etc.

Let them tell you what works best for them, and respect that. Be sure to respect their rules for the kids, as well, when you’re babysitting. Never contradict the parents’ rules and discipline practices for their kids while the kids are in your care – either in their home, or in yours. Instead of trying to impose your own agenda of how you’d like to take care of your grandkids, ask your son and daughter-in-law what kind of help they’d like with the kids and respond in a way that works for all of you.

Be a good role model. Aim to inspire your son and daughter-in-law by being a strong role model for them: living a rich and full life independent of them and living out your faith in all parts of your life. Retain your individuality and demonstrate confidence in yourself and your abilities. Share stories with your daughter-in-law about your life before she knew you and talk openly with her about your life now so she can get to know you well. Strive to reach your highest potential in life and serve others regularly. Be aware that your daughter-in-law is watching you and that living well can enrich your relationship with her.

Published May 12, 2009

Adapted from What’s a Mother (in-Law) to Do?: Five Essential Steps for Building a Loving Relationship with Your Son’s New Wife, copyright 2009 by Jane Angelich. Published by Howard Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, New York, Ny.,  

Jane Angelich is a business coach who mentors female business owners, an entrepreneur, the author of Picking the Perfect Nanny, and a speaker who has appeared on national television and radio programs many times. She regularly contributes to Sue Shellenbarger’s column in The Wall Street Journal called “Work and Life.” Angelich lives in California with her husband.