3 tips for healthy parent/grandparent relations

Grandchildren. The apple of their grandparent’s eyes. Many grandparents live for their grandchildren, and many even schedule and revolve their lives around these special little humans. My daughter is so blessed to have wonderful relationships with her Nana and Papa. They are both a strong presence in her life, and she could not be more blessed to have these people in her life to help love and guide her through the years to come. That being said, when becoming a grandparent, there are adjustments to be made when adapting to this new role. More often than not, those adjustments have something to do with boundaries. Grandparents finding appropriate boundaries with regard to their grandchildren and their parents will help create happy and healthy relationships among family members for years to come.

Spoil with time and love     |     Spoiling grandchildren is an unwritten law of grandparenting. However, spoiling too many people equates to spending. Anyone who has a child is aware of how much “stuff” that comes along with them. A once tidy home is soon overflowing with “stuff.” Personally, my daughter has enough stuff. I want my daughter to appreciate and be content with the things she has. And, it’s hard for a child to learn to appreciate and be content with items when they are continuously receiving more “stuff” from every person who walks through the door. So it’s nice that when my parents get my daughter a gift, it’s of a smaller (more simplistic) and useful nature. My daughter needs pajamas, they are simple and useful. She does not need more toys. So, establishing a boundary on appropriate gifts and spending is helpful.

There are other ways to obtain a child’s affection than to spend lots of money on material items. I very much appreciate that, rather than buy my child off with mass quantities of treats and toys, the main way my parents spoil my daughter is with their time and love. They are present. It doesn’t matter if the event is as small as a regular kindermusik class, they will make an hour drive to watch her dance around with a rainbow scarf for 30 minutes. From bedtime snuggles, story time, to trips to the park, they are present right alongside my baby and myself. I was fortunate enough to have my own grandparents be a huge presence in my childhood and life. Now, I am grateful my daughter has that same kind of close relationship with my parents.

Know your place and role     |     It can often be hard for grandparents to know their place and role when it comes to grandchildren. At the end of the day, they are the grandparents so their role is not to parent. It is a grandparents place to respect the decisions of the parents, support the parents in those choices, help back up those choices up when need be and give input only when asked or when the safety of the child is of concern. Establishing a boundary of appropriate caretaking, behavior, and discipline is imperative.

I am VERY appreciative of my own mother with regard to my daughter and respecting my parenting choices. She likes to take an active and helpful role as my baby’s Nana, but she refers to me for nearly everything. It does not matter if it’s as small as something like giving my daughter a snack, my mom asks me for permission and asks for a directive of what to give and how much before giving it to my daughter. If it is a matter of more significance, like discipline or communication with my daughter, my mom asks me for advice and instruction on how I would like situations to be handled. Furthermore, when it is a situation she is uncertain of, she quickly asks me to intervene and take over.

Knowing you will have your special time     |     More often than not, the mother is the primary caregiver of a child, especially during infancy. A mother herself is also in recovery from pregnancy, labor, and delivery. During this time, it’s common for a new mother to prefer her own mother and family to provide assistance over her in-laws. Because of this, it’s also common for a maternal grandmother (and maternal grandparents) to have more access and time with a new grandchild. This is not meant to be a reflection of negative feelings toward the paternal grandparents. It’s simply natural for a grown woman to still prefer her own mother, just as a baby prefers her own mother over other people. Some things don’t really change too much over time 🙂

Rest assured to paternal grandparents, your special time with your beloved grandbaby will come. This time often begins to take place as a child grows into their toddler years and are more self-sufficient. I have an aunt who gave wonderful advice with regard to parenting. She said, never turn down the opportunity to participate in an activity or spend time with your child when they invite you because one may not always be fortunate enough to have those opportunities. And, she is right! But I think this same advice can translate to grandparents as well. If paternal grandparents are feeling left out, or like they don’t have the same access the maternal grandparents have to a new baby, take all the opportunities given. Whether paternal grandparents particularly likes the opportunities they’re given or not is not really relevant. If invited to do anything related to the new baby, take the opportunity! It will only strengthen family relationships all around, and more than likely, open the door for more opportunities to take place in the future.

I am sure there are many more points to cover on this topic, and I may add to these points in the future. However, for now, these are the points of significance that stick out in my mind. If anyone is struggling to find a healthy balance with the parent/grandparent dynamic, I would recommend a good read. Henry Cloud wrote a book called Boundaries in 1992, it is VERY helpful and useful in terms of advice on navigating these relationship dynamics. Since then, the Boundaries book has been turned into a series and there are several additional books out on boundaries with children, boundaries in marriage, and boundaries while dating.

At the end of the day, you are the parent. And, if you feel boundaries are being crossed or need to be established between parent(s) and grandparent(s), do not wait for the grandparent(s) to make such adjustments. Use your voice, speak up, and stand up for yourself by delivering a respectful message to your loved ones regarding your concern or issue. It may be uncomfortable and scary to have such a conversation with your parents or in-laws; however, in the end, it will make for happier and healthier relations with everyone. I hope everyone has recovered from the 4th! It’s such a busy holiday full of activities and events. I wish everyone an upcoming weekend of rest and relaxation.

xoxo, Alli

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