In my practice, some of the most common parenting issues relate to the other parents, the grandparents. Much clinical research shows that grandparent involvement is beneficial for grandchildren, but how good is it for the parents? The old saying, “The reason grandparents and grandchildren get along so well is that they have a common enemy.” did not come out of thin air. Although grandparents are a welcome addition for many parents, it is natural for their involvement to be stressful at times. This newsletter will focus on some challenges parents may face with the beloved older generation.
Revisiting your own issues from childhood
No doubt, if you are reading this eBeansTALK newsletter you are a self-reflective parent who is interested in providing the best experience that you can for your child. Becoming a parent often brings up powerful emotions about our own childhood. Old feelings of resentment and disappointment directed towards our own parents are often revisited. We want to provide the type of experience for our children that we did not have. For instance, parents who were criticized too much as children may have a less restrictive parenting style with their own kids. These complex reactions are all quite natural and even healthy, but if not tended to properly, they can lead to problems with the grandparents.
Most grandparents want to have at your little bundle of joy from the moment they lay their eyes on them. A welcome pair of extra hands and free babysitting is a real blessing for any parent. Nonetheless, there often comes a time when you want to be with your own wife, husband, and children. Establishing a special sense of the immediate family unit gives each member of the family that they are involved in a special bond. Let grandparents know from the start that they are loved and valued but that it is important to have your own family time. Include grandma and grandpa when you want to and ask them for their wisdom on raising children. Even if you think they may have been an uneven parent, you may be surprised at what they may have learned in raising you.
The Critical Grandparent
If you have one of these inlaws or parents who always seem to have a critical eye or a wagging finger at how you are treating your own kids, then you know what I mean about the critical grandparent. Some grandparents have a critical style in general and some feel so intensely that they know what is right for their grandson that they become oblivious to how they are treating you the parent. This situation calls for a cool head. Be positive and be strategic. Explain that although you respect their point of view, you do things differently in your house. You do not need to justify yourself. You are the parent and you have the right to do things your way. Discussing your differences with them will help to strengthen your relationship. If this strategy fails, then it may be a time for the mom and dad to sit down with the grandparents and share your difficulties. Be prepared and open to hear their struggles as well. Sometimes just posing the question “We disagree here, so how can we get along to help the children?” can go a long way.
The Parent Unit (Husband and Wife)
Grandparents can also lead a husband and wife to take sides. We can often feel torn loyalties between our own parents and our spouses. Talk out your dilemmas with your spouse and let them know that you are on their side even if you disagree with them. The husband and wife unit needs to come first. Sometimes it is hard to realize when our old childhood fears or patterns are keeping us from seeing what the grandparents are doing. So, stay in contact with your mate.
Grandparents are great, but like our children, our relationships with them can be challenging. Be warm, open and direct when communicating with them and you will reap the rewards. Oh and yes, a little grandparent spoiling is perfectly o.k..
If you liked this article, you may also want to read our other developmental articles:
Here are some great books on and for grandparenting.
A must for any household!
The Joy of Grandparenting
The Ultimate Guide to Grandmas and Grandpas
I Call My Grandma Nana
I Call My Grandpa Papa