When Your Mother-in-Law moves In: Tips for a Peaceful Coexistence

When Your Mother-in-Law moves In: Tips for a Peaceful Coexistence


Ready or not—your mother-in-law has moved in.

Of course, you already had a busy household with kids, activities, and work. Now a whole new dynamic is being added to the mix as you take on the role of caregiver for your relative.

This can either be a time of joy or dread, depending on your outlook.

However, it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. You can make this an opportunity to not only aid an aging parent, but also strengthen your family as well.

Consider some ideas for maintaining a peaceful coexistence when your mother-in-law moves in.

Make a Plan before the Move-In

Even before your mother-in-law moves in, start making a plan. Remember, people in general are less likely to do something they are hesitant to do if they are forced or told to do so.

So, if possible, actively include your mother-in-law in the planning process. By including her in the process, she has a stake in the outcome. And that will help her feel empowered and that she has more ownership over the move and the situation.

Some things to consider before your mother-in-law moves in include:

  • Downsizing possessions and selling her home
  • Making sure financial affairs are in order
  • Preparing your home for your mother-in-law (making bathrooms and stairways safe)
  • Ensuring her medical need are cared for

Give Your Mother-in-Law Her Own Space

Another tip for peaceful coexistence is to ensure your mother-in-law has her own space in your home. This could be as simple as a bedroom to a full-on apartment, depending on the layout of your home.

The key is that it is her space to do as she sees fit. That includes furnishing, decorating, etc. Again, this will help your mother-in-law to feel that she has ownership over her situation and that she feels comfortable, too.

Explain Your Expectations

As with any new living situation, it’s important for everyone to know the expectations for coexisting together. For example, if you work from home, communicate with your mother-in-law there are times when you need to focus and be free from distractions.

When laying out expectations include your children as well. That way everyone in the family is on the same page with what is expected of them.

Let Her Contribute to the Household

Few people like to just sit around and do nothing, and this is most likely true for your mother-in-law, too. So, be open to including her in household tasks and chores.

Of course, you both need to keep in mind her age and her physical and mental health (dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc.) However, you’d be surprised at how much she can and is probably willing to contribute.

Consider these ideas:

  • Watching the grandchildren
  • Cooking a meal at least once a week
  • Light housework duties
  • Gardening

Doing these types of chores allows your mother-in-law to feel that she is contributing to the household and that she’s part of the family. This can greatly help with creating a peaceful coexistence.

Encourage Her Independence

Of course, your mother-in-law doesn’t have to stay at home all the time. Encourage her to find activities and interests outside the home that she will enjoy. For example, attending a weekly card game with friends or visiting the local recreations center.

Something that is important for anyone at any age is finding community, and that means looking beyond the family home. When we feel that we ‘belong’, it helps boost our mood, attitude, and helps reduce the chance of emotional problems such as depression.

In fact, she may already have a packed schedule of activities that interest here. The trend these days is for seniors to be leading much more active lives than their predecessors.

Getting Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when your mother-in-law moves in. There are services that can provide in-home care as well as transportation. That can free up some time for you and also take off some stress.

Your mother-in-law moving in will certainly change your home dynamics. However, there are ways to make the process go smoothly so you can all enjoy a peaceful coexistence. Talking to a professional counseling who understands family relationship issues can help.

Please call me at 949-760-7171 or text 949-244-8572 or email jimswaniger@gmail.com with any questions or to schedule an appointment.