The moment a baby is born, a couple becomes parent and another one becomes grandparent. This is new for both. They are learning their responsibilities, are terrified to make mistakes, gets overprotective and at times defensive too. In today’s era, grandparents are needed more than ever. Parents have to work difficult hours and who is better to supervise children than their own grandparents. Still, sometimes there can be friction among them with respect to their methods, beliefs, parenting style etc which is not catastrophic but still something which needs to be fixed. The clash between the two has to be understood and handled carefully so they can work in harmony with their knowledge, passion and experience in order to raise a better child, a better citizen.
Following are some points and scenarios which will help parents and grandparents to understand each others psychology including hope and expectations they should have.
You are educated more than your parents, earn better than them and know more things about what’s happening around the world but never commit a mistake to undermine or criticize their parenting because they have more experience than you. They’ve raised you. Contradicting them will only bring out unacceptable outcomes and heated arguments. Watch what you’re saying; most importantly ‘how’ you are saying it. Grandparents tend to be quite sensitive, handle with caution. If you both disagree on something, for example, the kind of food your kid should eat etc, first explain them how you understand their good intentions and the place they’re coming from and talk about it for a while. Later instead of adding a ‘but’ to the sentence give an example what an expert thinks about the same topic. Expert should be someone they believe and respect, like doctors. Try to keep it smooth and suggest new food habits. Do not rush, they will likely give a positive response if they get to understand where your opinions are coming from.
Don’t let them undermine your authority
As grandparents have more experience than you, sometimes you will find them dismissing your ideas or methods bluntly. Understand, even if they have raised you and has more experience, that doesn’t mean you have to withdraw yourself from the process of parenting. This is your kid, your turn, this time will not return. Indeed, take guidance from your parents but do not assume that their way is the ultimate one. Mix your ideas, read up on it, collaborate everything and improvise it. Create a better method than your parents. Be assertive about your role as a parent and their limitations as grandparents. There could be some stress in the beginning but it will gradually fade away. Remember, asserting your authority doesn’t equal to rudeness but a need.
After a certain age, especially retirement, grandparents tend to feel quite insignificant and aimless in their life. Having a grand kid gives them purpose. At times, they can be a little intrusive and annoying but be patient and try to understand the reason behind it. How they feel about it, why they do what they’re doing and you will only find affection and compassion for them. Use your words. Tell them what their presence in your life means to you, express how grateful you are for the help and assistance they are providing to raise ‘your’ kids. Paraphrase the things they do for the family and acknowledge them from time to time, especially in front of guests. They will feel extremely needed and valuable, also, who doesn’t like a few compliments every now or then.
While creating a formal schedule, sit with them and discuss your schedule. Tell them the areas you will need their help in and ask them how much of it can they manage. Assign ‘duties’ to everyone involved in the family. Be clear on your role, if you want to raise your kids with certain values and beliefs which are contrary to the grandparents, be extremely transparent about it. As I said before, this transition will be difficult in the beginning but eventually all pieces will fall into the right place.
Guide, don’t Decide
Doesn’t matter how much your kids look helpless and incompetent, you don’t have to take over for them. You have experience, use your words. Tell them how things are done, but don’t act stubborn and demanding on how your way is the best way. You don’t have to take decisions for them, just assist them in making one. Share your experience, give examples but also trust your adult kids in doing what they decide is best for your grandkids. In this journey, they will make mistakes, they are bound to happen, don’t taunt or mock them and go all “I told you so”, they’re new at parenting just like you once were. Be patient and empathetic. Lastly, understand that not wanting your involvement has nothing to do with you, it’s about them, their Right of Parenting. Just be there for them, also explore your hobbies and talent. Socialize and create your own network because happy grandparents raise happy grandchildren.