I’ve been asked more than once about how to deal with the grandparents. (Not the grandparents who are estranged, live miles away or choose to not spend time with the grandkids. That’s a whole other topic.) I’m talking about the grandparents who are around and are involved. Here are a few thoughts…
The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren can be amazing. Grandparents can delight in your kids and give them back at the end of the day, and grandchildren can get spoiled, learn new things, and experience different activities with their extended family.
But unfortunately, grandparents can also be interfering, undermining and downright annoying if they question your parenting style or refuse to care for your kids in a consistent way.
And many of us depend on extra help from the grandparents so we can work, study or have some respite. So what can we do?
Firstly, I think it’s important to recognise that children benefit from having a diversity of relationships in their lives. With each person, they experience a different dynamic and they learn different things. Kids understand that they might get special treats or special treatment at grandmas, which they don’t receive at home. This doesn’t necessarily have to undermine anything you try to achieve at home. But your child can benefit from the diversity of experiences.
Secondly, relationships need time, space and goodwill to grow. Dads can sometimes lack confidence when caring for the kids because mums micro-manage and criticise or expect everything to be done their way. Grandparents can also feel the pressure from over protective or over sensitive parents. If you want a strong relationship to develop between your children and their grandparents, they need a bit a space and time to establish a bond and share some love. That can be good for everyone.
Thirdly, children can bring generations closer together because there’s a shared love and shared purpose. Encouraging the grandparents to be involved in your children’s lives can bring you all closer together if you allow it. The kids are a new topic of conversation and you have a new way to relate to your parents. I didn’t fully appreciate my parents until I became a parent myself.
So if you have a specific issue with the grandparents, what can you do? It helps to decide how non-negotiable the issue is. Does it matter that your child watches more TV, eats more lollies, and sleeps less at grandmas if it only happens once a week? Can you live with it? Can you talk about it reasonably? Can you have a discussion about expectations in a non-threatening way? What’s more important – the relationship or the rules? It’s up to you to decide.
What’s been your experience with the grandparents?