How Do I Tell My Mother-In-Law That She Can't Smoke in the House If She Lives With Us?

by Freddie Silver

    Relationships with in-laws can be tricky. Even when you get along well enough with your mother-in-law to have her live with you, problems may arise. If she's a smoker and you don't want her smoking in the house, you might find it difficult to broach the subject. Find the right balance so you can assert your rights without offending her or making her feel unwelcome.

    You need to assert your rights. This doesn't mean being dogmatic or cruel, but be clear in your own mind about your needs. In her article, "If Parents or In-Laws are Moving in With You,," Susan Newman, who holds a doctorate in psychology, suggests that when adults live together, it's beneficial to establish realistic boundaries and respect them. Asking your mother-in-law to not smoke in the house is a reasonable request, so be firm if she's reluctant to comply.

    Prepare in advance what to say and how to say it. Avoid using insults or making threats. Be sympathetic to her point of view -- let her know you understand her reluctance to restrict smoking to outside, but try to get her to understand things from your side too. Relationship guru, Dr. Phil, suggests enlisting your husband's support. The mother-son relationship can usually withstand disagreements better than the in-law relationship can.

    Collect information about the detrimental effects of second-hand smoke and share these facts with your mother-in-law. She might be more receptive to your request to restrict her smoking if she understands the potential harm she's doing to her family. The Cleveland Clinic informs us of the health risks of inhaling toxic substances that remain in the air up to four hours after a smoker exhales. Let your mother-in-law know smoking inside the house exposes young children and pets to health problems ranging from common colds to ear infections and high blood pressure.

    Despite any frustration you feel toward your mother-in-law, you're sharing your home with her and want to maintain an open and respectful relationship. Offer alternatives when you refuse to allow her to smoke in the house. Stock up on healthy snacks that you know she enjoys, such as favorite fruits. Set up an attractive seating area outside where she'll be comfortable. Consider purchasing electronic cigarettes. She might be tempted to make the switch to the new technology when she realizes she'll be able to smoke in the house as well as in other place that forbid tobacco, such as shopping malls and airplanes. Redirect your discussions to positive experiences you've had together and don't dwell on the conflict.

    About the Author

    Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.

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