Q: I don't really get along with my mother-in-law, and we often fight in front of my baby. But I want my baby to be close to her grandma -- what can I do?
A: Even from a young age, your baby is likely to pick up on and react to your tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. She notices when you're uncomfortable around another person and responds accordingly -- turning away from Grandma, crying, or clinging to you even more. Try these steps to defuse the family tension.
• Talk it out. First things first: Lay all your cards on the table. Sit down with your mother-in-law and acknowledge your differences. Sure, it can be tough between the two of you sometimes. But -- and here's the good news -- there's one point you both agree on: It's important for your daughter to have a close, meaningful relationship with her grandmother.
• Stay positive. The next time your mother-in-law comes to visit, use a warm voice when you greet her, give her a hug, and ask her to join in your daily routine with your daughter. This gives your child the message that her grandmother is a good, trustworthy person. (And it'll help Grandma see how your daughter likes to be held, fed, and so on.)
• Make a date. Suggest that your mother-in-law establish a special ritual with your daughter -- something that just the two of them can do together. They might go to the park every Monday afternoon or have a standing playdate every Saturday morning. This conveys to your mother-in-law that it's important to you for her to have a special relationship with your daughter.
• Be supportive. Your child may initially resist spending time alone with Grandma (separation anxiety tends to set in after 6 months), so use your tone of voice and body language to show her that you support the activity. In an upbeat tone you might say, "I know you're feeling shy, but Grandma will take good care of you today. Have fun this afternoon, and I'll see you when you get back from the park." It's important to respect your daughter's feelings, while also acknowledging your mother-in-law's desire for strong ties with her grandchild.
When you do need to resolve a conflict with your mother-in-law, it's best to do so privately, away from the baby. While Grandma may never be your best friend, the hope is that the two of you can establish an amicable, mutually respectful relationship.
Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the January 2008 issue of American Baby magazine. Updated 2009