Dear Rachel,

My children love their Grandma and Grandpa very much although they only see them roughly once a month even though they only live ten minutes away. My husband and his mother do not get along at all and she has come to the conclusion that she will no longer be a part of our lives, including that of the children, if she and my husband cannot work out their problems. She is more than welcome to come any time of the day when my husband is not around which leaves many hours of the day she could visit or she could come and pick them up for an outing. I get along fine with her and I have made it very clear and have demonstrated that she is welcome anytime. She would rather come to our house because it is more kid friendly. I just want the grandparents to be as much a part of my children's lives as possible. She will not even return my 5-year-old's phone calls. What do I tell my 4 and 5 year old when they ask where their grandmother is? My heart aches for them both as well as for my almost two year old who doesn't really even know her.

Bethesda, MD

Dear J.D.,

I can imagine how painful the situation must be and want to start by telling you that it is very commendable that you are so focused on what is best for your children and you are not letting yourself get sucked into what is clearly a bitter situation.

Now the key is trying to get your husband and his parents to see that they have lost focus of what is important, and that is the fact that the real losers in this fighting is your children, whom I am sure are the last people that any of them want to hurt.

From the way you describe things, it doesn't sound like you will be able to solve the issues between your husband and his parents so easily, but hopefully you will be able to be successful in salvaging the relationship that your children have with his parents.

Although you have opened the door and made it clear to your mother in law that she is always invited, it doesn't sound like she is comfortable in your home, even when your son is not there. I would suggest rather planning an outing for your children and their grandparents, with a specific day and time, and then inviting them to come and join. Make it clear that your husband will not be with you and even offer to come and pick them up. Do not wait for her to make such plans or to come and take the children herself as it does not sound like she is going to do that. And it does not need to be a huge event, just a trip to the zoo or the mall or even to a local park.

It might also be a good idea to just take the kids and drop by their house for a visit. Even if their house is not child proof, if they live so close, why not pop by and say that the kids just wanted to see them and say hi. A ten minute visit will mean a lot to your children and will not be an imposition on your in-laws. You can call first and tell her that you wanted to drop by, and maybe even have them come along while you take the kids to get a slurpie or something very easy and quick but that they will enjoy doing with their grandparents.

Another idea is just seeing if you can pick them up before you get the kids from school as they would love to have their grandparents surprise them and come to get them.

And during the breaks that they are not seeing their grandparents, explain to your children that their Grandma and Grandpa love them very much but just haven't been able to spend so much time with them. Assuming that they will speak to your children on the phone, try calling often, letting them tell their grandparents directly how much they want to see them. There is a huge difference between theoretically knowing that the children miss them and hearing their adorable little voices say "we want to see you…." (I am assuming that she is not returning the phone calls since she doesn’t want to risk your husband answering the phone. So make sure you call again until you reach her, then put her on with your children…)

If your mother in law still refuses to spend time with your children, even when you have made sure that it requires no effort or planning on her part, then I think it is important that you more directly explain to her how much pain and hurt this is causing yourself and your children. While she may be doing this to punish your husband, in truth, she is punishing your innocent children who do not deserve this.

It is also important that you explain to your husband how their fighting is affecting the children. Ideally, when he sees that his fighting is hurting others, maybe he will be more willing to try to work things out.

But at this point, your focus should be on your children's relationship with their grandparents, and hopefully through that, the relationship between your husband and his parents will also improve.