The ABC of Grandparent Relationships

“Grandparents” and “grandchildren” are two well-coined terms, as few relationships in life are so “grand” than the one between these two parties. However, for the parents sandwiched in the middle, this connection can sometimes pose “grand” challenges that may even result in conflict between the senior and junior adults.

Yet, if everyone involved is respectful, willing to compromise and able to focus on the privileges of the situation, the grandparent-grandchild bond could greatly enrich all three generations. To help with this, consider following the ABC for grandparents and parents below.

For grannies…

A for Adjust

Times have changed. It is necessary for grandparents to shift gears.

Firstly, realise that your children’s families will – and should – look different to yours when you had kiddies in the home. They are independent adults who need to establish their own culture. It may be hard to accept that you do not have authority anymore, but focus on the upside instead: you get to step back and enjoy the little ones without all the responsibilities they bring.

Also, if you raised your kids with gripe water, Marie biscuits and walking rings, but your daughter-in-law is not a fan of these, please consider that new trends and research have changed the landscape of child-rearing. Are you thinking, “But my kids survived just fine!”? That is true. And so will your grandkids – even without the gripe water!

B for Behave

Respecting your children and children-in-law’s house rules, desires and ways (even when you do not agree with them) will secure your relationships. Try not to overstep your bounds.

Make sure you know what their expectations are from you (especially if they do not communicate it well or if the in-laws may not have the boldness to speak up). This goes for visiting times, appropriate gifts, the children’s diet, well-intended advice, etc. Grow a thick skin when you have these conversations. Do not take offence when they tell you, “Please call before you pop in!” Forgive them if they are untactful. And remember, they have the right to draw lines.

C for Care

The next generation needs you – even if they do not acknowledge this. Grandparents’ support often plays a vital part in the survival of young families.

Again, talk about what support looks like for them and how you can help. Maybe showering them with treats is your way of showing you care, but milk and bread would have been much more appreciated. Or it could be that they are not asking for babysitting out of respect for your time, and you need to assure them of your willingness.

May you find new purpose in realising your significant place as the “grey one” in your maturing family!

For Parents…

A for Allow

You need to let go of some of your ideals when it comes to your children’s relationship with their grandparents. It is okay (even beneficial) if another set of rules apply in their grannies’ homes. This will not confuse them, provided you communicate clearly and the vitals remain the same. For instance – if grandma allows them to jump on her bed, she needs to deal with the muddy sheets. However, if you prohibit possibly harmful TV programs, that rule needs to be universally obeyed. Pick your battles.

A crucial factor to consider is the amount of time children spend with your parents. If they see them almost daily, the reigns need to be pulled in tighter; if they are mere “holiday grannies”, more “recklessness” may be allowed. For example: the former type of grandparents cannot feed your kids sugar every day, but the latter may have more rope.

B for Boundaries

Your family needs limits and rules – even when it comes to your own parents. However, there are often conflicting perspectives between the two co-parents about what this entails – e.g. the one may find sleepovers fine, whereas the other won’t allow it under any circumstances. Sort this out between the two of you (with wise mediators if need be) and then decide what are mere preferences and what are essentials.

This brings us to the next point…

C for Communicate

The answer to healthy intergenerational relationships (or any relationship for that matter) probably lies in positive communication. Make sure the elders know what your family’s values and expectations are. You cannot be upset with them for “overstepping” if they were unaware of any lines. They probably meant well and were just very excited about their grandkids.

Please be respectful in your communication and also remember to verbalise your appreciation for them. You need their support, so keep them on your side!

May this three-tier relationship be a great blessing to all of you!

Need more resources to help with intergenerational issues?

Munchkins can assist you in several ways: Book one of our experts for a talk on grandparents and in-laws; purchase “super granny” Andalene Salvesen’s book A Brand-new Child in 5 Easy Steps which contains a chapter dedicated to grandparents; or book a coffee consultation with one of our team members to discuss your concerns – this visit may include the grandparents!

Tags: Boundaries, grandparents, mother in law, relationships

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