In this way, you can create a relationship that works for all of you and provides extra love, support, and guidance for your children.
Here are five tips to help you manage the grandparents:
- Relate to your child’s grandparents.
Hopefully you will understand at some level the excitement that grandparents have about entering this new phase of life. Just as you may be experiencing everything from joy to fear and back again, the same range of emotions is happening with the grandparents. The first suggestion is to be patient with them as they are learning a new role in life.
Accept advice and guidance.
Anyone who has at least one child will tell you that EVERYONE has advice for you from the moment you announce the expected arrival of your bundle of joy. Grandparents are no different. In most circumstances, being gracious about the advice they offer is best. Understand that for the most part grandparents want to be helpful by sharing their wisdom.
Even well-intentioned advice can feel like criticism, and as new parents you may be particularly sensitive to the feeling of being judged. Having a few prepared comments ready to deflect some of the advice can be helpful in cutting off unwanted suggestions.
For example, an effective statement such as “Thank you for that advice and for sharing your perspective. I will certainly consider that,” or “I really appreciate your caring enough about us to want to share your wisdom. I will talk with XXX about it.” Then you can change the subject.
If grandparents are more intrusive than feels comfortable, you may have to set some boundaries by having open communication about how you feel. It is often best if this conversation occurs between the child of the grandparent who is being intrusive rather than between the child-in-law and the offending grandparent.
- Grandparents are less likely to become defensive if you start by letting them know that you appreciate that their concern is coming from a place of love for you and your children.
- You can let the grandparent know that when she criticizes or offers suggestions, you feel like she does not think you are doing a good job raising your children.
- Tell them that you need them to be supportive rather than critical of you. While you appreciate their suggestions, you will be making the final decisions about how to raise your child.
- Be clear that what you need and want them to do is to develop a good relationship with your children and to offer you concrete help or to share their wisdom when you ask them to do so.
This is much easier with today’s technology. Sharing every day moments and special occasions can be done easily. So share, share, share using smartphones, Skype, and Facebook or whatever means possible. Keep pictures of grandparents around the house where your children and grandchildren can see them.
Keep lines of communication open.
Make sure that you communicate clearly with all grandparents your rules for your children. If you are lucky enough to have grandparents who can babysit from time to time, share your rules about snacks, bedtime, discipline and routines. Don’t be too surprised if some rules are not followed exactly; that is part of being a grandparent.
Also remember that grandparents add a special dimension to your child’s life that is very valuable. Encourage letter writing and/or emails between your children and the grandparents. Letter writing is fast becoming a lost art, and yet letters are little bits of family history that are easy to keep.
- Keep in mind the benefits for your child’s growth and development.
The bond between a grandparent and grandchild can help the child feel safe and learn to be independent. Overnight visits with grandparents can be great first sleepovers for a child before having sleepovers with peers.
When children are young, grandparents are great playmates. Then as children grow and mature, grandparents can offer pearls of wisdom differently than mom and dad. Grandparents also provide a sense of continuity to the family structure as well as family history. Often grandparents have hobbies and interests that they would like to pass on to their grandchildren; frequent visits can allow time for this sharing to take place.
By Marjorie Bateman
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