What Not To Do

Grandparents can be a wonderful source of assistance to their children in caring for the grandchildren. In many families the grandparents are the most frequent babysitters and parents are sincerely appreciative of the help that the grandparents offer.

There is a fine line between being helpful and being intrusive, though, and grandparents must be careful not to overstep their boundaries.

Open Communication

Since all people are different and have varying expectations of the role of grandparents, it is a good idea for potential grandparents to approach their grown children before the birth of the children to offer their assistance and inquire as to how they can be most helpful.

By allowing the parents to make suggestions, grandparents can minimize the chances of offending their kids by assuming they need help in areas where they would rather not have any.

Likewise, expectant parents may want to initiate a conversation with the sets of grandparents, acknowledging the importance of their roles in the children’s lives, and asking for help as needed.

By doing so, the grandparents will feel valued and may be less inclined to intrude in matters that are not specifically requested. This respectful communication should continue throughout the children’s childhoods, adapting as the children’s needs change.

Respecting the Role of Parents

There is no doubt that parents are often a bit stressed and overwhelmed, and grandparents, having already raised their children, may have a wealth of knowledge in matters of childrearing.

Possessing that knowledge doesn’t give grandparents the right to question the methods in which their grown children choose to raise their offspring, though, even if the grandparents feel that their kids are doing everything wrong.

Unless there is parental abuse or neglect of the children, grandparents must never attempt to usurp the authority of the parents in matters relating to the grandchildren.

Parents have every right to make decisions that they feel benefit their children and no one, not even the most well meaning grandparents, should try to interfere with their judgment.

Handling Disagreements

Even when everyone is trying to be considerate of other family members, disagreements will sometimes arise. Families are made up of people with individual strengths and weaknesses and at times, personalities are bound to clash.

It is important to address misunderstandings promptly, rather than allowing hurt feelings to grow until they become too large to handle.

Harmony within the family should be the ultimate goal for all parties, so compromise is a far better choice than a steely determination to “win.”

General Rules

In general, parents and grandparents must try to honor the other’s wishes and offer reasonable compromises whenever possible. There are a few guidelines that should help both sides in keeping the peace.

For Grandparents:

Never “overrule” a parent’s decision by allowing the grandchildren to do something when you know that the parents disapprove.

Never voice opposition to a parent’s decision regarding the grandchildren, especially in front of the children.

If you have negative feelings about the children’s parent(s), keep them to yourself. Never bad-mouth a parent to their children. Respect parents wishes regarding nutrition, television viewing, discipline and other things. Parents should always have the final say in matters concerning their children.

For Parents:

Try to allow a bit of flexibility in the rules when your children are visiting their grandparents. Bedtimes and nutritional guidelines can be stretched a bit without causing harm to the children.

Speak of the children’s grandparents in a respectful, loving manner. Remember; even if you have mixed feelings about your parents or in-laws, your children probably adore them.

If the grandparents consistently disregard your rules regarding the children, do speak to them in hopes of reaching a peaceful understanding. It may help if each parent deals with their own set of parents in difficult situations since the grandparents may be more inclined to listen without resentment to their own child rather than a son or daughter-in-law.

Try to encourage a close bond between your children and their grandparents. A good grandparent/grandchild relationship is valuable to both parties.

Teamwork Within the Family

Ideally, children would be surrounded by adults who treat each other in a respectful, cooperative manner. Not only does this type of environment foster feelings of security in children, it also provides them with good examples on which to model their own behaviour.

Families who are in a constant state of battle are sure to leave the kids feeling torn.

Since the happiness and well being of the children is the main goal of parents and grandparents, they need to interact in ways that honour each other and the children.

See Also
Distant grandparent
Grandparenting from a Distance
Making time for each child
Making Time for Each Grandchild