We love our kids, and we adore our grandchildren. So why are there problems when we visit them, or they come to our homes?
Are you facing difficulties in your relationship with your grandkids? It’s called being human.
Each family has its own culture—its rules, its expectations, its unique way of doing life. It’s usually not a matter of right or wrong, but just different. And it can cause problems when we interact with our grandchildren.
Here are some hot topics when it comes to keeping the peace and facing difficulties with our children and optimizing our time with our grandchildren.
Honoring Parental Family Rules
You probably had rules in place as you raised your children., and had established bedtimes, rules for play times, understandings about chores and which clothing was okay to wear to play outside. You may have had rules for overnight stays and how loud the music could be played, and… well, lots of rules.
But we grandparents aren’t with our grandchildren as often as we’d like so we tend to want to make the time extra-special. We want to buy them gifts, feed them things they enjoy and let the treats flow! We may want to keep them up past their bedtime “just this once.”
Think about this from the parents’ standpoint. They may be willing to let you bend the rules once in a while, but they don’t want to have to fight the battle of getting rules in place over and over again.
We grandparents are wise if we try very hard to honor the rules the family has put in place. First of all it shows respect for our children’s efforts to be good parents. We’d be just as unhappy if there were no rules.
In addition, if we abandon all boundaries for the grandkids, we may find we’re creating problems for ourselves, too. Children are happiest when they know what is expected and follow clear routines. They love the attention we give them, but if we overdo the treats and freedoms, we may be telling them “anything goes.” That’s a mistake.
As much as possible, honor the rules set in place by the parents. You’ll have fewer unhappy conversations with your children.
This is a tough one. We raised our families and learned many lessons along the way. We know things. So why is it so hard to impart our knowledge to our children as they raise their families?
We were inexperienced, we were swayed by current trends, we may have been trying to follow a different path than our own parents. And we certainly didn’t appreciate older folks telling us what we were doing wrong.
Even kindly comments that seem critical can create a danger zone. And this is especially true if we grandparents are dealing with a son-in-law or daughter-in-law. Our children don’t want to disagree with their spouse and before you know it, you’ve got an unhappy relationship you never anticipated.
We can give advice on any number of parenting topics, but the guideline is: Let them ask you first. If they ask for your opinions or advice, then you’re free to share what you know. Even then it’s wise to soften advice with a phrase such as “This is what worked for me,” and not “This is the only way to do it.”
Setting Your Own Boundaries
As much as we love time with our grandchildren, we’re not as young as we once were. Being with rambunctious children, keeping up with fast-paced young family life can be exhausting. If we live near our families we are blessed to be with them on a regular basis. We get to watch them play sports, do dance recitals and just hang out with them.
We may also be asked to babysit quite often. This, too, is a good thing if it’s not “too much.” It’s wise to make clear decisions on how available you are to give time to your family. Some grandparents become surrogate parents, and that’s fine if it’s what you want. Be clear in your own mind and clear in telling the family what you are willing to give.
If you live far away from your families, you probably grab every opportunity to interact with the grands, but even here, be sure you’re not overspending or otherwise doing more than you’re comfortable doing.
Determining to Be Involved in Your Grandkids’ Lives
Sadly, some families drift apart for lots of different reasons. Maybe there is conflict in the home, or the family members are so busy there seems to be no time for grandparent visits. Maybe your own schedule is demanding and requires most of your attention.
Your relationship with your grandchildren is very important. And the years you have to be part of their lives zips by. It’s easiest to develop a strong and special relationship with them if you can begin at birth and remain a steadfast part of their life from then on.
How many people have you heard mention in their memoirs that their grandparents were the anchor they needed as they grew up? “Grandma was always there for me.” Or “My Grandpa was my example of what it means to be a man.”
So, don’t give up, even if the road is rocky. Determine to be a part of your grandchildren’s lives. Write them letters or notes, share music with them, attend their special events or watch them on live chats. Make the effort to be there and to show interest in their daily lives.
It’s worth the effort.
Here are two resources on setting reasonable expectations as you interact with family: