What to Say When You Don’t Feel Safe Leaving Your Kids With a Relative

This week, a mom on Winnie had a question about how best to set boundaries with an extended family member she didn’t feel comfortable with.

My mother in law wants my kids to sleep over.. but she recently remarried and I get a super creepy feeling from her husband. My husband has said stuff but she still asks me all the time if they want to sleep over. I’m running out of excuses… do I just be honest and deal with it?

It turns out to be a surprisingly common concern. All parents want to keep their children safe, especially when you get an inkling or intuition that something isn’t right. This situation becomes especially delicate when that person is a family member.

The community was unanimous on one thing — you need to trust your gut. When it comes to your children, you’re biologically tuned to be on high alert. Maybe you’ll get some false positives, but this is a powerful instinct that’s worth listening to. And in a world where most abusers are known to their victims, it’s completely okay to be choosy about who gets to spend time alone with your kids.

So what do you say?

  • Make up a blanket rule that applies to everyone, not just them. “Say you have a policy of no sleepovers unless a parent is there. It’s a safety thing and for the kids’ benefit you just want to be consistent about it.”
  • Address boundary issues when it’s part of a pattern. “If you’ve asked her not to bring him around your kids, and she hasn’t respected that then maybe she shouldn’t be allowed either.”
  • Just be honest. “Be honest. Stand your ground. If someone doesn’t approve of your decision then they’re not worth the time anyway.”
  • Just say no and don’t give a reason. “You owe no one an explanation. It’s your child.”
  • Don’t apologize for being protective of your children. “If she gets upset, ask her if she would do the same if she felt like that with her kids?”

What would you do?

Have you ever been in a situation like this? If you have experience or advice to share, head over to the discussion on Winnie and leave a comment!

Posted in Parenting ∙ Updated April 2019