Every parent has a certain way of raising their own kids. The way of raising them is largely influenced by their own parents and how they have raised them. What were their values, the communication style, if were they more hands on or letting the kids having more independence. But then there are the grandparents. And since they are older, have grown up in completely different times, be it economic or otherwise, they naturally have a different view on many things, while raising kids being no exception. Thus, this single topic can become a source and a beginning of many problems and friction.
Parents vs. Grandparents
When the first child is born, it is for sure a great joy for the entire family, parents especially. But with joy also comes worry. And uncertainty as well as new responsibilities and many many other things. First child for the parents is a huge change which they naturally have to adjust to. And every adjustment changes the relationship with each other and their new member of the family – their child.
Grandparents have it a bit easier in a way. They don’t need to adjust as much as the parents have to. In the beginning the role of the grandparents is for sure observe the inexperienced new parents trying to cope with their new roles. Nevertheless, the feelings that grandparents have for their own child and for a grandchild are very different.
When it comes to raising kids/grandkids and disciplining them, both parties can either have very much the same or different view on things. The main and most important thing both of them can do, and must do, is to communicate. And also a few other things, such as:
- Be willing to listen: If you have a feeling that the grandparents are constantly “watching over your back”, just know that they do not mean it bad. They just want the best for you and their grandchild.
- Do not criticize: Grandparents should not criticize the way the parents are raising their kids and parents should not criticize how grandparents are, perhaps, disciplining them. Both have grown up in different times with different opinions on things and there is no right or wrong way. There are just different ways. Both have something good in them.
- Be clear about your roles: Role of the parent and role of the grandparent. Be clear, honest and thoughtful about what you will and won’t do as a grandparent and as a parent. Mainly never ever stop honestly and openly communicating.
- Stay within your own roles: Grandparents, take note! Make sure that by being helpful you aren’t being intrusive and that you are not undermining role of the parents. Being a grandparent is a joy and it’s your chance to love your grandchildren and give them the wisdom, guide and teach them something new. Your goal is to be there, to be loving and supportive, not critical or judgmental.
- Be on the same wavelength with your partner: Identify the main issues and discuss them together. Make sure you are both on the same page about the problem. Once you are, then discuss it with the grandparents. One of the partners will always have to take the “main” role and it should really be the one, whose parents they are.
- What if grandparents do not want to listen: Most of the time they will not agree with your style of parenting or they will feel you’re not capable of parenting your own child. They may even become offended to your accusations, insist their approach is better or even ignore your concerns completely. This is often because they were brought during different times. The best advice in this case would be to bring all 3 concerned parties together (the grandparents, you, the parents and your kids) and explain that the rules at home will be the same as the rules at the grandparents’ house. This way it will be fair and square for everyone and the kids will not have a feeling that what they are allowed at grandma and grandpa’s house, they are suddenly deprived off at home or vice versa.
Grandparents as “older parents”
In 2017 there were more kids living with their grandparents than ever before. Rachel Dunifon, professor of Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell. Dunifon and her team found that family structures are diverse, and the specifics matter. Children whose grandparents assume the role of raising them face different challenges compared to children who live with their parents and grandparents in a “three-generational” home. This certainly isn’t a rosy outlook for the grandparents.
All of this has for sure fire effect on the grandparents too. They tend to experience higher levels of stress than other grandparents and are more likely to face mental health and financial problems.
Children raised by grandma and grandpa are more likely to experience emotional and behavioral problems.
But it is not all just bad news. There is an incredible warmth and appreciation grandparents and grandchildren have for each one another. And this relationship should be treasured and cherished.