My sister-in-law has a preteen son with a man she has not been in a relationship with for basically the child’s entire life. Although the child’s father pays support, he is at best, disinterested in his son. He will blow off visits, not acknowledge the child’s birthday, etc.
My problem is that my sister-in-law (and my mother and father-in-law) consistently speak poorly about the child’s father. The discuss, openly and in front of the child, what a jerk the dad is, the inadequacy of his financial contributions, and their disapproval of whatever went on at dad’s house when the child does visit there. The child was quiet at first when these discussions took place, but now he is chiming in. I find it really sad that these adults are talking like this in front of the child, even if dad is a jerk. I think it is more sad that the child is now taking part in these discussions. I really only see the in-laws on holidays, and these discussions happen without fail every single time. I spoke to my husband about it, and he feels it is not his place to say anything. Should I say something? If so, what? 0401-14
If these are your in-laws badmouthing their own daughter’s ex-husband, I wouldn’t dream of offering an opinion about their behavior to them. While their own behavior is destructive to themselves and the preteen son, none of them will be able to see that and your opinions will fall on deaf ears. And you could be viewed as meddling. This situation is not within your sphere of responsibility to admonish the in-laws so your husband’s counsel is correct.
What you can do is model decent, edifying behavior so that years from now your nephew-in-law might notice who is trustworthy and above petty backstabbing and seek you and your husband’s counsel. Be prepared at the family get-togethers to change the subject with a fascinating diversion or intriguing bean dipping.