Emily Parker spoke with authors Gwyn and Jill Harding-Jones, who have been in-law children for over 30 years, and parents in-law for 10 years. They share their thoughts on how to make those potentially tricky relationships work.

Jill and Gwyn Harding-Jones
Jill and Gwyn Harding-Jones

Emily: Why did you write this book?

Jill: Although it's aimed at parents in-law, it's actually for the benefit of the young couples, because we realised that there are so many in-law relationships that are not good. So we wanted to share some things that we've picked up through our journey; we've been in-law children over 30 years and then we've been parents in-law for 10 years.

Gwyn: We've met a number of young couples over the years and to be honest with you, we've been shocked at how many of them have problems with parents in-law. Over discussion we've tried to give the bit of advice that we can. But then about three years ago Jill had this thought, well why don't we write a book to help this relationship? So what you see is this book, 'How To Be The Parents In-law Your Kids Will Love'.

Emily: What did the term 'in-law' mean to you before your children got married?

Jill: We've had positive and negative things happen whilst we've been married. I think for a lot of people, when you hear the word 'in-law' it's got a negative connotation, but I think it's fair to say that we've had positive and negative, haven't we?

Gwyn: Yes.

How To Be The Parent-In-Law Your Children Will Love

Jill: And we've tried to learn from both of those. Being parents in-law, we've tried to implement the positives and avoid the negatives.

Gwyn: Unfortunately, that term 'in-laws' does carry a negative connotation. That's why there are so many in-law jokes. Les Dawson is one of my favourites really, because he's got so many mother in-law jokes and they're absolutely funny and I love them. But even though it can be regarded as a joke, there are some serious issues involved in there as well, and some young couples are really struggling because of this poor relationship with their in-laws. So, like Jill said, we have had both positive and negative experience, but we're not going to go into the details of who's done the negative and who's done the positive.

Emily: Why do you think there is such a negative image around in-laws?

Gwyn: There are certain principles, and we don't claim to have got them right, because what we've shared in the book is what we know thus far on our journey. I'm certain we don't know everything, but we have come to recognise that there are various principles that need to be in place for this relationship to work. It's a unique relationship because as a parent you've nurtured and brought up your child, and then you're having to release them to somebody else. It's that point of release, if you don't deal with that and recognise that your relationship changes, that's when you start having problems. That's what we've seen anyway.

How To Be The Parent-In-Law Your Children Will Love

Jill: When you look at mother in-law jokes, I think it would appear that it's mainly mums that have got a problem when their kids get married, in releasing them and letting them go.

Gwyn: It's true what Jill said. It seems that where most problems lie is with the mother in-law. In fact we share in the book that fathers in-law can actually be a problem too. Even though the classic is the mother in-law joke.

Emily: So letting go of your children is just one example, particularly at the start of a relationship. What tips would you give to a parent who may be experiencing what can be known as 'empty nest syndrome'?

Jill: Instead of looking at it that you're losing a child, look at it that you are gaining an extra. We started off with two children, we've got a daughter and a son and we've now got a son in-law and a daughter in-law and we love them in the same way that we love our own kids. So rather than looking at it that we've lost a daughter and we've lost a son, we've actually gained two more kids.