Relationships are at the core of our humanity. That’s why we enjoy celebrating weddings! At weddings, we form new relationships between the couple’s families, and that’s when we get to call them in-laws. But, when referring to the parents of one’s daughter/son-in-law, is there a term we can use?
Sometimes, the most simple and direct is the answer. The best way to refer to the parents of one’s daughter/son-in-law is ‘my daughter-in-law’s/my son-in-law’s parents’ as this makes it clearer and direct about who you’re referring to. Other preferred alternatives are co-parents-in-law, and simply in-laws.
My daughter-in-law’s parents/My son-in-law’s parents
Sometimes, being direct is key. There’s no other way to describe a relationship better than by stating exactly what the relationship is. Thus, it’s best to refer to your daughter/son-in-law’s parents simply as ‘my daughter/son-in-law’s parents’ instead of using a different, more complicated term.
What’s essential to note is that, technically, you and your daughter/son-in-law’s parents do not have a relationship, and you are both simply parents of a wedded couple.
It is also why there’s no exact term that we use in English to refer to the parents of the couple as it isn’t an essential part of the culture of American people and because technically, you and your daughter/son-in-law’s parents do not have a direct relationship with each other.
Thus, the best way to refer to them is simply as ‘my son/daughter-in-law’s parents.’
This may not be ideal, however, if addressing them as the people you are talking to. It might sound weird and off to say ‘Hi, my daughter-in-law’s parents,’ for example. So, this alternative works best if not talking to them directly, but if talking about them to someone else instead.
Co-parents in law
The next best alternative to referring to your son/daughter-in-law’s parents is by calling them ‘co-parents-in-law.’ This stems from the idea that you and they are both parents of the couple and whose families are in-laws of each other. Thus, being ‘co-parents-in-law.’
To understand the term ‘co-parents-in law’ better, it’s best to divide it into two. First is the term ‘co-parents.’ Being a co-parent in this context, means being one of the people responsible for taking care of the child.
Both you and you’re daughter/son-in-law’s parents are parents responsible for taking care of their children. Since you are both taking on the position of being parents, we can call you co-parents.
This is not to be confused with ‘co-parenting,’ which most divorced couples do to ensure that both parents still fulfill their responsibilities to their children. Here, ‘co-parents’ simply means both parties being parents.
The second part is ‘in-law.’ ‘In-law’ here doesn’t mean that you and the parents are in-laws, technically, you don’t have a relationship with them. Instead, this means that both parties belong to two families that are in-laws of each other since your child and their child are married.
Thus, you can refer to your son/daughter-in-law’s parents as ‘co-parents-in-law.’ Though this term is not widely known, it is acceptable as long as all parties involved understand what you mean to say.
(My Child’s) In-laws
Another alternative when referring to your son/daughter-in-law’s parents is simply ‘in-laws.’ THis does not mean that you and they are directly in-laws, but that you belong to families that are in-laws of each other. To avoid confusion, one may say ‘my child’s in-laws’ instead.
Many avoid using the term ‘in-laws’ when referring to one’s son/daughter–in-law’s parents because again, you and the parents are not the ones in a direct relationship with each other, nor are you the two parties who are in-laws.
However, it’s not necessarily wrong to use ‘in-laws’ in this context. ‘In-laws’ can always be short for ‘my family’s in-laws,’ ‘my son’s in-laws,’ or ‘my daughter’s in-laws.’
Of course, completing the phrase as ‘my child’s in-laws’ and such is also an option to avoid confusion. However, it’s only deemed necessary if you think ‘in-laws’ alone can be confusing. Nonetheless, ‘(my child’s) in-laws’ is another alternative to refer to your son/daughter-in-law’s parents.
My son/daughter-in law’s family
Saying ‘my son/daughter-in-law’s family’ is another alternative when referring to the parents of your son/daughter-in-law. This alternative stems from the idea that the parents are also part of the family. However, this is a more general term that may involve other family members like siblings and such.
The members of an immediate family would be the parents and the children. Thus, by saying ‘my son/daughter-in-law’s family,’ we also refer to the parents, but possibly also your son/daughter-in-law’s siblings and even relatives that they consider as part of the family.
This makes the alternative ‘my son/daughter-in-law’s family’ a more general term when referring to the family of your son/daughter-in-law, but it still works and applies as it still refers to your son/daughter-in-law’s parents.
However, it may be best to use the alternative in contexts and situations wherein whether only the parents or the whole family doesn’t matter. This alternative is best used for matters that involve one’s son/daughter-in-law’s parents, but not necessarily specific to them only.
The next alternatives are more culture-specific and may not apply to all, depending on the culture one belongs to. First, we have the Greek term, ‘Sympatheroi.’ The direct translation of ‘Sympatheroi’ is ‘my child’s parents-in-law.’ However, this term does not have an English equivalent.
Since the Greek culture pays high value to marital relationships and relationships between laws, they have created a term specifically for referring to one’s child’s parents-in-law.
While many Greek words have been adapted and borrowed by the English language, we do not have a direct English translation of this one, as these types of relationships are not a great part of the culture or are not as valued highly in English-speaking cultures.
In Greek culture, ‘Sympatheroi’ is plural and is used to refer to both parents, ‘Sympathera’ is feminine singular or the mom, while ‘Sympatheros’ is masculine singular or the dad.
In Greek culture, these terms are used both in first-person and third-person. Thus, in Greek culture, calling your son/daughter-in-law’s mother by saying, ‘Hey, Sympathera!’ is correct.
It is essential to note, however, that these terms are special and particular to Greek culture. Thus, if your family is not of Greek heritage, or does not practice Greek culture, it’s best to not use these words, or use them with caution, making sure to use the terms with respect and not to mock their culture.
‘Machatunim’ is another culture-specific Yiddish term, most often used by Jewish communities. A rough translation for ‘Machatunim’ in English would be co-in-laws, but even this does not encompass the meaning of ‘Machatunim’ in Jewish culture. ‘Machatunim’ is, however, used to refer to the parents of the couple altogether.’
Jewish culture is another culture that highly values relationships between families, thus creating terms like ‘Machatunim.’ ‘Machatunim’ is a way to describe the relationship between the parents of the couple, the parents of the groom, and the parents of the bride, for example.
According to an article from Slate, Jewish communities find that the relationships of the parents or the in-laws are just as valuable and purpose-filled as that of the bride and the groom. Because of that high value and importance, they made a term to refer to each other, which is ‘Machatunim.’
It is essential to note, however, that like ‘Sympatheroi’ is to Greek culture, the term ‘Machatunim’ is special and particular to the Jewish community. Thus, if your family is not Jewish or Yiddish, or does not practice Jewish culture, it’s best to use these words with much attention and caution.
‘Consuegros’ is the Spanish equivalent of ‘Machatunim’ in Yiddish and is another culture-specific alternative to referring to one’s son/daughter-in-law’s parents. ‘Consuegros,’ roughly ‘co-in-laws’ in English, is used to refer to the parents of one’s son/daughter-in-law.’ In Spanish, ‘Consuegro’ is for males, while ‘Consuegra’ is for females.
Spanish culture is another culture and community that puts a high value on developing relationships within and between families. This is why Spanish culture has the term ‘Consuegro’ which is precisely used to refer to one’s son/daughter-in-law’s parents. To be more specific, they use ‘Consuegro’ when referring to the father, while they use ‘Consuegra’ when referring to the mother.
However, again, note that ‘Consuegro/Consuegra’ are terms that are special and particular to the Spanish language and culture. If your family is not of Spanish heritage and culture or is not part of the Spanish community, it’s important to use these terms with care and much caution.
First Names (calling them by their first names)
Within the culture of English-speaking communities, we do not value family and relationships as much as other cultures do. Thus, we don’t have special terms like ‘Sympatheroi’ or ‘Consuegro.’ What’s common is simply calling each other on a first-name basis, and this works even when referring to your son/daughter-in-law’s parents.
Calling each other by the first name builds on the fact that English-speaking communities do not pay high value to family and relationships generally, and that technically, you and the parents of your son/daughter-in-law do not have a direct relationship with one another.
While this may seem disrespectful in other cultures, calling each other by first name is a known practice in English-speaking communities and cultures. To make things more formal, one may also use Mr. and Mrs. [Last Name], but sticking with first names is fine as well.
Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.