A Problem Shared: Christmas Chaos With In-Laws


A Problem Shared | by | 6th Nov 2017

APS Christmas In Laws Cover

How do you deal with divorce at Christmas? That’s what one mum is asking after asking her father-in-law round and not the mother-in-law. Do you have any advice to share in this week’s A Problem Shared?

Have your say in the comments section below or on our Facebook page. 

If you need some help with any ideas or with any issues that are causing problems for your family why not share with the FamilyPoint Community? You can get advice and support from other parents as well as get an answer from one of our trained and experienced helpline adviser advocates. Click here.

Hi FamilyPoint,

Thinking about Christmas is already becoming a major headache, and it’s only the start of November!

My father-in-law and mother-in-law recently split up, and my mother-in-law is in a new relationship. My father-in-law is heartbroken and I feel really sorry for him. So my husband and I invited him over to ours for Christmas Day. We thought he could spend time with his grandchildren and hopefully keep his mind preoccupied.

The problem is that my mother-in-law has taken great offence to this. She thinks we’re choosing sides and that we are judging her by not inviting her over for Christmas day.

And then because of all of this I’m feeling really guilty too because my mum and dad aren’t even a consideration in the middle of all this palaver. Although they’ve not said anything at all I feel guilty that they are being left out.

It was much easier when we just celebrated Christmas ourselves and asked people to pop over when they wanted to say hello and give gifts. Yet asking just one person over to ours for lunch has just delved me into this deep pool of guilt! They can’t stand being in the same room as each other, and can’t even do it for the sake of the kids. So how can we let my mother-in-law pop over with gifts when my father-in-law will be in the house? Do I stop her coming altogether?

I don’t know how I’m going to enjoy Christmas knowing that there is ill feeling.

Our FamilyPoint reply

Thanks for getting in touch with us here at FamilyPoint. First of all try not to beat yourself up about the situation you find yourself in. Your original decision was made out of kindness towards your father-in-law, after all isn’t Christmas the season of goodwill? Furthermore would you have felt comfortable at the thought of him spending Christmas alone? It’s a difficult position you find yourself in but you’re not alone. Modern families are a complicated business and Christmas can mix that up further. However, all is definitely not lost and this can certainly be managed using a diplomatic approach.

"Your original decision was made out of kindness" APS on Christmas with difficult in-laws

An important first step is to be clear with your family about the plan for Christmas. Otherwise, as you mention, it will be difficult for you and your children to enjoy your own day and there could be tension.

After all, your father-in-law and mother-in-law are adults as are you and your partner. You should be able to have a discussion with each other about the plan for Christmas Day, even if this does mean that they have allocated times to visit. Maybe take some time to explain to your mother-in-law why you have decided to invite your father-in-law for dinner. This might go some way to reducing the offence she feels.

"Modern families are a complicated business and Christmas can mix that up further" APS Christmas In laws

If they have a problem spending time with each other then they are the ones who need to make allowances to make things work for the sake of the children involved. Not the other way around.

That’s Logistics

Let’s move to the logistics of the situation. You mention that it was easier and less stressful when people could simply pop over during Christmas Day. Is there anyway you could suggest that your father-in-law doesn’t arrive until a late lunchtime? This could give your mother-in-law the chance to visit and exchange gifts before your father-in-law arrives.

As for your parents surely they could pop over any other time during the day without conflict, so no need for them to be left out. If you don’t think this approach will work maybe a day each could be allocated to each parent? Your father-in-law gets Christmas Day, whilst your mother-in-law gets Boxing Day? You could even make an occasion of Boxing Day with a nice meal and the festivities of Christmas dinner such as crackers and party hats.

"Allocate a day to each parent?" APS Christmas In Laws advice

You sound like a very caring person, hence the “pool of guilt”, but like you say your priority is your children this Christmas. If you can make time for everyone on the big day you have given more than enough Christmas goodwill and will hopefully be able to enjoy the time yourself as a family too!

We hope these tips may go some way to resolving these dramas and that you all have a very Merry Christmas. Best Wishes the FamilyPoint team.

FamilyPoint Helpline

If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.


A Problem Shared… is your space to share both your problems and your advice with the FamilyPoint community.A Problem Shared Sex Talk

Got a problem you want to share? Ask us now. Got advice you want to share? Leave a comment below or write an article for us!

Check out all our ‘A Problem Shared…’ posts for more family advice…

Here are just a few of them:

A Problem Shared: How Can I See My Kids This Christmas?

12 Christmas Blogs #2: How Will I Cope With My In-Laws?

12 Christmas Blogs #8: How Do I Get Rid Of A Terrible Present?


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