Q: My son just lost his job. While they get back on their feet, he and his family will be moving in with us starting next month. We’re excited to have them around for a while – but also a bit apprehensive. How can we maintain good relationships during this time?
A: We’re sorry to hear about your son’s situation; we know that can be hard on everybody. The biggest area for potential problems centres on unclear expectations by both parties – you and your spouse on one hand, your son and his wife on the other. So you should try to be as clear as possible going into the situation.
First, you and your spouse need to be unified and agree on any “house rules” prior to having your guests move in. Decide if there will be a tentative timeframe for the arrangement, and how to handle cleaning, chores, buying food, cooking, babysitting, etc. You also need to be sensitive to the fact that as parents, your son and his wife have the right to make decisions regarding their children (your grandchildren). You must respect their parental authority and support it, even if they don’t do things the way you would.
Then, sit down with your son and daughter-in-law in a relaxed setting to talk about these issues. Discuss their expectations. Discuss your expectations. Come to a consensus on the house rules, especially involving your grandchildren, and how to handle disagreements or broken rules. Finally, and for the benefit of all concerned, put something into writing – a sort of mini-contract that defines all of these parameters.
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