Struggling With Her Mother-in-Law

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Type: Case Studies
Originally published on February 13, 2023 and last updated on May 8, 2023

Engage your ESL students in a case study conversation about a woman who is struggling with her relationship with her mother-in-law. This scenario presents a common and relatable situation that many individuals face in their personal lives.

Through this exercise, students will have the chance to reflect on their own experiences and provide support and suggestions on how to handle similar challenges in relationships. This type of discussion not only improves critical thinking, but also helps to develop skills in effective communication and conflict resolution in English learners.

Ask your students to read the following case study, or listen as you read it to them. When finished go through the conversation questions with them. Try and get them to use approprate language to give their opinion and offer advice

Case Study: Trouble With Her Mother-in-Law

Sarah is a 28-year-old woman who has been married to her husband, John, for three years. They live in a small apartment in the city and are expecting their first child together. Sarah is a nurse and works long hours, while John works as a software engineer.

Sarah has always had a difficult relationship with her mother-in-law, Karen. Karen is a retiree who lives in a nearby town and frequently visits Sarah and John unannounced. During her visits, Karen is critical of Sarah’s cooking, cleaning, and decorating skills and makes negative comments about her pregnancy. Karen also tries to take control of their home and makes decisions without consulting Sarah or John.

Sarah has tried to address the issue with Karen, but her efforts have been met with resistance. Karen accuses Sarah of being too sensitive and refuses to listen to her concerns. John is caught in the middle and feels helpless in resolving the conflict between his wife and mother.

Sarah is feeling overwhelmed and stressed by the constant tension in her relationship with Karen. She is struggling to enjoy her pregnancy and is worried about how Karen’s behaviour will affect her after the baby is born. She has also been experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Conversation Questions

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  • How do you think Sarah is feeling about her relationship with Karen?
  • What specific actions is Karen taking that are causing problems in her relationship with Sarah?
  • What do you think Karen's motivations are for her actions?
  • What advice would you give to John to help resolve the conflict between his wife and mother?
  • What are some potential risks of ignoring the conflict between Sarah and Karen?
  • How might Sarah's relationship with Karen be different if she had a stronger support system of family and friends?
  • In what ways could therapy or counseling be helpful for Sarah and John in resolving the conflict with Karen?
  • What can Sarah learn from this experience?
  • What would you do in a situation where a family member frequently visits unannounced?
  • How would you handle a situation where a family member makes negative comments about your home, cooking, or cleaning skills?
This conversation topic was prepared by Gregory

Gregory is a qualified TEFL teacher who has been teaching English as a Foreign Language (ESL) for over a decade. He has taught in-person classes in Spain and to English learners around the world online.