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Why You Shouldn't Leave Out These Family Members During the Holidays

By Kyle Danner

Remember being a kid in grade school, wanting to fit in? Wanting to be one of the cool kids? You wanted it so bad because no one wants to feel like an outsider.

Everyone wants to fit in, somewhere.

Now, think of your in-laws.

They have the unenviable task of trying to become a part of the “in” crowd. Just like you wanting a seat at the cool kid's table in grade school. Only this time, the “in” crowd is your family.

It’s tricky in families since families are protective of one another. By nature, they’re suspicious of outsiders.

Throw a family business into the mix, and it’s even trickier. There’s always the risk of family gatherings turning into business meetings. If the in-laws, or anyone for that matter, are not part of the business, they’re left sitting there, feeling alone in a room full of people.

They could try to speak up, but they run the risk of appearing as an uninformed outsider. Or they might appear to be sticking their nose in where you feel it doesn’t belong.

It’s not only tough for them, but it’s also tough for family members who are not part of the business. And it’s tough for their partner who has to balance loyalties between biological family and chosen family.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

In-laws have a role to play, and they shouldn't be excluded, especially during the holiday season.

6 Ways to Ensure Your In-Laws Feel Included During The Holidays

  1. family-gift-exchange-in-laws-businessDon't go on and on about the business. One way to help maintain the boundaries between family and business is to give in-laws the power to call a time-out when family gatherings veer in business meetings. They shouldn't be subjected to long business discussions. After all, the holidays are about spending time together, not about the business.
  2. Let your in-laws decide for a change. Ask them to plan activities that build the family. It can be as simple as going to watch a football or baseball game, or as involved as a weekend getaway for the family. Look to them lead family efforts on philanthropy. 
  3. Look out for warning signs. When someone feels left out, they’ll either try to force their way in or they’ll pull back, refusing to participate. Whichever tendency your in-law has, it creates a division that doesn’t need to be there. It’s a division that will deepen over time. If you notice your in-law isolating themselves or trying to drive discussions, make sure they feel included. Ask them questions, give them extra attention, and invite them to family outings whenever you can.
  4. Make sure everyone does their part. Keep in mind that this is a full-family effort. If you believe your in-laws might be feeling left out, talk to the rest of the family about it. Invite everyone to plan a lunch date sometime during the year with your in-law and their spouse. A little can go along way.
  5. Keep it positive. Keep your grievances about your family member/co-workers to a minimum. If all you do is complain about your cousin, your in-law will only see them in the negative light. That’s not fair to your partner and it’s not fair to your cousin. Besides, there are at least two sides to every story.
  6. If you're an in-law, learn about the family business. Learn about it not just from your partner but also from other family members. It’s a step in building relationships with them, and it helps you to see the bigger picture. Offer to plan family gatherings, which include activities that take everyone’s mind off the business. Volunteering at a local food pantry is a just one idea.

No one wants to feel left out, especially during the holidays. The good news is, no one has to. When it comes to family business, everyone, including in-laws, can make a contribution to the family and business.

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