When you are pregnant or become a parent, you open yourself up for a variety of unsolicited advice. When it’s from strangers, you can shrug it off. But it’s more challenging when it comes from those who really do have the best interest of your child in mind—the grandparents. The parent-child dynamic definitely shifts a bit when the child becomes a parent, so it can be an adjustment to find balance between all of the roles. Whether you struggle with your own parents or your in-laws, we’ve got tips for making those relationships with the grandparents go smoothly.
Today, Jennifer L. Hartstein, author of Princess Recovery: A How-To Guide to Raising Strong, Empowered Girls Who Can Create Their Own Happily Ever Afters, shares an excerpt from her book with advice on finding balance between parents and grandparents. (And be sure to check giveaway details below on how to get this book!)
Parents vs. Grandparents: How to Find Balance
Grandparents are important in children’s lives, but the relationship between grandparents and the parents can sometimes be difficult. The best grandchild/grandparent relationships are those that are encouraged by the parent, who then steps back and lets them unfold. Of course, this is not always easy, especially if you don’t always agree with the things YOUR parents (the grandparents) are doing.
New parents may forget that their parents did do a good job of raising them, and thus, often have their own ideas and special knowledge that they bring to the table. If you can start to communicate about everyone’s roles prior to the baby being born, you are able to set the tone for positive interactions.
Grandparents are integral for many reasons, including offering a safe place for grandchildren to be, especially when mom and dad are tired and need a respite; providing a sense of identity and family history; stability; helping with child care; and giving support and knowledge.
Despite their importance, though, it appears that conflicts arise around several key areas:
1. Expectations. Grandparents and parents all have their own expectations, and they may not be the same. New moms may expect grandma to come over every Thursday, when, in fact, that doesn’t really work. It’s important to discuss expectations and needs openly and honestly, so no conflict arises.
2. Communication breakdowns. Everyone comes to parenting with different ideas and needs. It’s very important to provide clear information with explanations (even with reading materials/websites) to grandparents so they can understand why you are making your parenting decisions.
3. Spoiling. In some ways, it is a grandparent’s prerogative (and job) to spoil your children. It is okay to put some limits on it, though, and ask for it in moderation. This may be a challenging talk to have, especially as a grandparent believes he/she is doing the “right” thing by over-indulging, however, it isn’t always great for the children. Be sure to speak your mind respectfully and ask to be the “gatekeeper” of the gifts. This is especially important if you feel that the grandparents are giving gifts that are not in line with you and your partner’s beliefs.
4. Differences of opinion. These differences may occur over a wide variety of topics, and can lead to increased conflict and feelings of being judged. Be sure to slow down and hear one another out, and then make decisions.