How to be a good grandparent
20th December 2017
This news article is from Handicare UK. Articles that appear on this website are for information purposes only.
Christmas is a time of year for family and often there will be multiple generations under one roof. Though it should be a time of festivities and joy, there can be tensions and trying to please everyone can leave older adults feeling stressed. Knowing when to step back and when to hold ground is often difficult and though everyone is determined to have a good time, it can end in tears. See the areas that often cause tensions and the way you can avoid them.
Their children– their rules
Parenting style and discipline has changed over the years and what has worked for one generation, may not work for the next. With this in mind, trying to transfer the techniques grandparents used on their own children can cause tension. Often it is best to sit down with the new parents and talk through how they wish to discipline and parent their child.
Speaking to Tammy Embrich from Grandmas Blog at Home confirmed that balance is best: “So, do we have a say in how our grandchildren are raised? Yes, and no. We can speak our concerns, tips, or what have you in how they are brought up and parented; however, actually have a say in everyday decisions in their lives, and the many yays or nays...no. For example: will our grandchildren be raised Catholic? That wasn't (a part) of our decision to make.”
Respecting the parents’ wishes and maintaining their rules while children are in the grandparents’ care is key to harmony. Whether the grandparents feel the rules are too strict or relaxed, instigating their own ideals can quickly lead to confrontation, especially if the parents feel undermined.
Occasionally the grandchildren’s behaviour may not be acceptable, but instead of reprimanding harshly, wait and speak to the parents. Approaching the subject delicately with concerns instead of complaints will help multiple generations find a solution.
As more dietary research is undertaken, different generations have varying attitudes about how to approach a child’s nutrition. Jamie Oliver has thrown out Turkey Twizzlers in the nation’s school lunches and many parents have followed his lead.
Though grandparents may not agree with the food choices, maintaining their diet by stocking snacks that the children could have at home will make everything easier. Of course, high sugar and salt treats are far tastier than carrot sticks, however, once the children know they are available at grandma’s house, it is hard to go back.
It will also cause the parents extra hassle during dinner times at home as children will not understand why they can’t eat the same things as they do at their grandparents’
While it is natural to want to spoil grandchildren, especially at Christmas and birthdays, it can cause awkwardness. This can be due to parents feeling like they are being outshone by the financially comfortable older generation, or because the gifts are not age appropriate.
Prior to the event, discussing a budget that parents feel comfortable with and still allows grandparents to spoil their youngest relatives is often the best compromise. It is also a good point to discuss the child’s interests with the parents and if any toys are off limits.
Dr Meg Meeker summed this up in a blog post: “Many grandparents are in the position to give grandchildren more than we could give our children because we may have more disposable income. But think about what can happen to our grandkids if we overspend on them. First, we show them that we can out give their parents. We know that we don’t love them more than their parents, but in the eyes of a small child, the message that our nicer gifts may give our grandkids is this: we care more about you than your mom or dad does.
“Now maybe your grandchild isn’t materialistic and wouldn’t feel this way, but think about something else. If we give our grandchild a motorized car that he can ride around the driveway and his parents give him a new tricycle, how do you think he’ll feel about that trike? Not very excited, I’ll bet. He will look at his parents’ gift and feel, well, pretty disenamoured.”
Often parents are working or just want a night off to themselves and this is the perfect time for grandparents to spend quality time with grandchildren. However, if grandparents have mobility problems and rely on home stair lifts, they can quickly feel the strain and this could have a negative effect on their health. This can often be a problem if the family live close by.
Tammy from Grandmas Blog at Home, was quick to suggest that communication is key in these situations:
“Don't automatically assume what will be your job as grandparents. It is suggested to have committed conversations with your children about the issue of what specifically your duties will be regarding ’grandparenting.’ The same suggestions regarding discipline; talk about all those issues...even BEFORE your grandchildren are born! Every parent is unique and has their own views on parenting/grandparenting. Your children shouldn't be an exception. Respect their wishes, and always adhere to them. Your relationship with those little ones could be jeopardized.”
To avoid a situation where grandparents feel put upon, work out a schedule that allows enough opportunity to see the children without being detrimental to health. Whether a regular schedule works best, or extended periods over the holidays, clear communication removes room for error.
Often people have multiple grandchildren from different branches of the family tree and a range of parenting techniques as well as grandchildren of different ages can cause confusion, especially if they all visit together.
If one set of grandchildren live further afield, they may be seen less often and their parents may feel they are being treated unfairly. Sharing time and gifts between grandchildren can be tricky, especially in different locations but keeping it as equally balanced as possible will stop any ill will.