When you and your ex split, you might have been thrilled to be free of your in-laws, or you might have felt a little mournful that you were losing them.
Whether the relationship was good or bad before the split, chances are that they’re going to be tense and at least a little uncomfortable now. Whether your in-laws were supportive of homeschooling before, or this was a new decision made since your divorce, you might find that they are questioning your decision.
You might think that you should do everything you can to keep the peace, for the sake of the kids. Or you might think you have no obligation to tell them anything at all – these are your kids, and it’s your (and possibly your ex’s) decision. Or maybe you feel you shouldn’t owe them an explanation, but because you want to keep the peace, you will anyway.
But it doesn’t have to be one way or the other: no explanation at all, or laying everything out for them to criticize, judge and condemn. There are actually several different things you can try in an attempt to not only keep the peace, but not feel like you’re having to explain yourself repeatedly.
A few ideas:
- Allow a set amount of time for them to ask questions. Whether it’s a new decision or they’re suddenly questioning, decide that you’ll give them however long – a week, a month, six months – to ask their questions and expect to receive answers from you. Ideally, you should let them know this time limit exists so that they understand they need to stop asking after that, or that you won’t be answering if they do. During this time, allow them to ask or say whatever they want, provide polite answers, and try to help them see why this is best for your kids. After the preset time limit has passed, be done. Refuse to answer their questions anymore (unless they are legitimate questions that show they are trying to be involved grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.).
- Ask your ex to help. Sometimes the ex’s family wants to feel like they’re being supportive of their child/sibling, and will look for anything they can think of to criticize you and show they’re on his side. If you get along with him, ask him for some assistance. See if he’ll talk to them, whether to answer their questions for you or to ask them to back off. This is more likely to work if you are civil towards each other, but it’s worth a shot even if you don’t get along.
- Direct them to your ex. If you and your ex don’t get along, and you and the former in-laws don’t get along, just direct all questions to your ex. Let him deal with all their questions, if they truly have questions, and if they don’t, you’ll be taking away their opportunity to badger you just to annoy you.
- Cut, or eliminate, contact. For the sake of the kids, you might have been allowing phone calls, visits, etc., between your former in-laws and your kids. But if you find that, despite your best efforts, they continue to make comments or ask questions, it might be better to cut down on the calls and visits, or outright eliminate them. If your ex still sees the kids on weekends, his family can see and call your kids then. If he doesn’t, then perhaps the threat of not seeing them will get his family to shape up and stop bothering you.
- Prepare a list of websites, books, documentaries and other educational materials to present to them. It may not be comprehensive, but gather a list of sites you’ve used in your attempts to get more info, or that others have suggested, that will provide answers to most of the questions they might ask. Type this list up, complete with URLs, publisher or filmmaker names, prices (for books and DVDs of documentaries), and where they can purchase books and DVDs, and print out several copies. When they start asking questions, hand them a copy of the list and suggest they see if their question is answered by something on it. If they’re genuinely interested, they’ll check it out. If they’re looking to harass you, they won’t – and it will either stop them immediately or cause them to show their true colors, which will then allow you to refer back to one of the previous options.
These ideas can also come in handy if it’s your own family that’s driving you nuts with questions about homeschooling. Some of them can even help if it’s friends or neighbors.
What tips do you have for dealing with these kinds of situations?