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Q. My husband's family has been insufferable ever since we had kids. His mother is always butting in with parenting advice, and his sister brags that her little darlings are smarter than mine. When I try to tell my husband how I feel, he says, "That's just the way they are." How can I keep my in-laws from driving me crazy?
Catherine Marshall Bean, M.F.T., a marriage and family therapist based in Philadelphia, answers:
A. Couples often fantasize that their relationship with their in-laws will be a smooth one. But when children arrive on the scene, extended families inevitably go through a transition. Grandparents and other relatives are trying to figure out where, and if, they fit in. When conflicts arise, never make your husband feel as if he has to choose between you and his family.
Try to establish a separate relationship with your mother-in-law. Spend time together -- perhaps the two of you could take the kids to the park. Let her know how much you respect her wisdom but that you also need her support for your decisions as a parent.
Your sister-in-law presents a stickier situation. People who make such insensitive remarks are usually insecure themselves. Hard as it is, grit your teeth if necessary, smile, and change the subject. Think of it this way: Maintaining good relationships with your husband's family is a gift your children will cherish forever.