Ex Etiquette: What to Do When Your Ex-In-Laws Have Too Much Input

Q. I am divorced and share custody of my two children with my ex-husband. They go back and forth between our homes every other week. While my ex is at work, his parents watch the kids. This means my ex in-laws have far more say in my children's upbringing than I would like. Truthfully, they are very good to my children, and we do get along fairly well, but now that I am divorced from their son, we rarely speak. They spend so much time with my children that my ex mother-in-law has no trouble calling me up and telling me what I should do with my own kids! I don't like it and I don't know how to handle it without causing a huge problem.

A. You are not alone. This is happening more and more now that 50 percent of all first-time marriages end before the seventh year. And, since most divorced parents are awarded joint custody, many with young children need day care. Add to that the fact that many divorced dads hand over parenting responsibilities to either their mother or their new partner, and you're faced with the problem you describe: co-parenting after divorce, but not with your ex.

This has probably taken you by surprise, and therefore you haven't laid the proper groundwork necessary to communicating with each other comfortably. Consider this: When you got divorced, your relationship changed from daughter-in-law to mother of her granddaughter. Her relationship changed from mother-in-law to grandmother of your daughter. To get along now and learn to solve problems together, the two of you need to build a new working relationship based on your new roles '- mother and grandmother.

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