Just when you think you have life worked out, you become a grandparent and things get complicated again.
Notwithstanding the exquisite joy that grandchildren deliver, there are quite a few challenges when adjusting to the role of Grand Parent.
A whole new group of people enter your life, in the form of in-laws (and often their friends and extended families). Prior to the arrival of the tiny treasure that is your grandchild, you may not have had to deal with this other group much.
However, once the child is born there will be occasions (such as birthday parties) you will need to interact and your diplomatic skills have never been so important.
I’ve seen huge rifts form in families because of a few careless words and the avalanche of reactions and hurt that followed.
Knowing when to bite your tongue and which battles are worth fighting is possibly a grandparent’s most important skill (along with giving great cuddles and unconditional love to the grands).
Hopefully, life’s rich lessons give us some of the wisdom needed for this next stage in life so that we can navigate the complicated byroads harmoniously.
We all have different opinions and our own way of doing things. Grandparents, though possibly full of wisdom from raising their own kids, need to respect the different parenting styles and appreciate that every family situation is its own unique force.
ZIP IT GRAN
The time to zip your lips is any time you feel inspired to be critical of the child’s parents, or indeed the other grandparents, should the grand be so lucky as to have two sets.
It is a truly wonderful thing when children have a host of reliable, loving adults around them, each offering different skills and lessons.
Lucky grandparents will have in-laws who share the basic moral standards, but for those who don’t, undermining the influence of the other people only serves to confuse the child and set the foundations for family breakdowns. Zip it gran.
It can also cause trust issues for the child later in life.
The relationship between mother and child is particularly sacred and interfering with that bond is not putting the child’s best interests first.
And, in fact, it can backfire so that the mother denies you access to the child, or the grand loses respect and interest in you because of your judgements. Another time to zip it, gran.
Voicing criticism to your own child about their partner, or their in-laws, can land you in equally hot water and possibly destroy the bond you enjoyed with your child. Again, I say, zip it, gran.
Best advice is to keep your judgements away from the kids and grandkids. Vent to your partner, or a dear friend, if needed (we all need to let off steam sometimes), but don’t threaten the fragile framework of family with critical comments.
This is a great thing to remember for all relationships, but when it comes to family, there is so much more to lose.
WHEN YOU SHOULD BITE YOUR TONGUE
When offering advice, especially if it comes out sounding like criticism, we need to ask ourselves two questions first.
- Is this really any of my business?
Our job is not to parent the grand. Our job is to love the grand unconditionally and, when appropriate, support the parents so that they can do the best possible job.
That is what great grandparenting is all about.
Obviously, there are times it is essential to step in and make a stand, like in the case of abuse.
However, if it’s a question of discipline or time management, perhaps our advice is unwelcome. Perhaps it is not even suitable for that family situation.
Keep in mind the phrase, “mother knows best”. Even if she doesn’t, there’s no certainty we do either.
Ultimately, it is up to the parents how they want to raise their kids. We’ve had our turn, so we should just butt out unless asked for advice.
- What possible outcome can my words achieve?
We need to gauge the chances that our words will be welcomed and heeded against the true possibility that they will create friction.
Is it really worth creating stress so we can have our say?
WHEN TO SPEAK OUT LOUD AND CLEAR
Of course, this doesn’t mean grannies and grandads should be seen and not heard.
Many of us have plenty of chances to exude our influence when we are called upon to babysit.
As long as we are not going against the parents’ wishes, we have a wonderful opportunity to guide the grand with our own unique sparkle.
There are some instances where speaking out is imperative.
If at any time we feel we are being used, taken for granted, or treated unfairly or rudely, we need to speak out.
If we don’t, resentment will build and our stress will show in other ways – ways that the family will not understand unless they have become mind readers. Then come the reactions and the hurt and the crisis.
HOW NOT TO ZIP IT GRAN
How we voice our concerns will have a huge impact on how harmonious our relationships remain.
It’s a good idea to take the time to let emotions settle, so we can speak in a calm and reasonable manner, and without anger.
Sentences that begin with “I feel…” are less accusing and confronting than those that begin with “you did…”
Take the time to ask questions. Remember, you are trying to resolve an issue, not create a bigger one and it’s important to try and understand where the other person is coming from.
Admit to your own flaws and insecurities. I did this with a loved one several years ago when a communication breakdown led to a conflict where there seemed no solution.
When I acknowledged my own insecurities that loved one was able to admit to theirs and we formed a plan to avoid future conflict.
By speaking openly and honestly, and being prepared to actively listen, we were able to formulate a plan that has resulted in a close and loving relationship, free of conflict.
Wishing you conflict-free relationships and a gleeful week, Tamuria.
Kristen WilsonApril 6, 2017 at 11:27 am
Oh yes… soooooo well aware of this one.. for sure… as you know.. My mother doesn’t know when to but out.. and it has ruined our relationship over the years so much so that we don’t speak any longer… and my poor children are in the middle. Enough said.
tamuriaApril 8, 2017 at 9:22 am
We all say the wrong thing sometimes. It’s sad when family members really cross the line though, Kristen, which I know you’ve experienced. What makes it worse is, it is often the children who end up paying the price.
Susan Mary MaloneApril 7, 2017 at 12:47 am
What great insight into why we communicate what we do. This works for all situations too. I just love: What possible outcome can my words achieve? That is the essence of it no?
Love this post!
tamuriaApril 8, 2017 at 9:23 am
True, Susan. This works for all situations and is important to remember if you want to keep relationships happy and healthy.
KristaApril 7, 2017 at 11:02 pm
Wow. That was well said. I remind myself (and other grandparents) that I (they) wanted to parent their way. We wanted our rules and desires followed when someone watched our children. My children want the same thing for their kids. We need to respect their wishes (even if we don’t agree) like we wanted ours respected years ago. I am sure some of the ways I choose to parent my kids, didn’t sit well with my in-laws either! And yet, I raised happy, healthy kids and they will also.
tamuriaApril 8, 2017 at 9:37 am
It really does come down to respect in the end, doesn’t it Krista? Our kids have the right to choose their own parenting styles, just as we wanted to do. What we think is right for them may not even be the case, so it’s better to keep our thoughts to ourselves – though I think sometimes, that is difficult and we need reminders.
MeghanApril 8, 2017 at 1:32 am
Love this! It had applications far beyond just children/grandchildren/in-laws. 😉 You bring up many excellent points, and your advice is wise. I don’t have kids, but I do have in-laws who have strong opinions (especially when politics are mentioned). As you suggest, I bite my tongue and let it out in other, more private ways. I only wish they could do the same. 😉
tamuriaApril 8, 2017 at 9:39 am
Can you imagine how much more peaceful the world would be if everyone took this advice, Meghan? I would much prefer to avoid friction than to have my say.
Alene GeedApril 10, 2017 at 2:45 am
Entertaining and informative! I think this rule of zipping it applies to all family interactions. After all, when is it really our business how another decides to live their life
tamuriaApril 11, 2017 at 1:19 pm
I totally agree, Alene. However, the temptation to offer ‘helpful’ advice can be pretty strong sometimes.
Apolline AdijuApril 10, 2017 at 4:26 am
Oh, my! This reminds me of the relationship one of my friends have with her mother. And sadly It has deteriorated these last years. As for me, there is a lot of respect in my family and everyone respects each others space and boundaries.
tamuriaApril 11, 2017 at 1:20 pm
Wonderful that your family respects the boundaries, Apolline. It’s so sad for those whose relationships have deteriorated.
Lorii AbelaApril 12, 2017 at 3:05 pm
Great advice indeed! Being judgmental is obviously a killer in any relationship. The sad story though is that judging happens all the time.
tamuriaApril 13, 2017 at 9:46 am
Too true, Lorii, judging happens all the time. Best advice is to keep your advice, and judgements, to yourself.
Mindy IannelliApril 12, 2017 at 10:22 pm
My mother-in-law has always been an ace with this and I’ve always admired her for it (along with many other reasons). I hope I can be as wonderful a mother-in-law and grandma as she has been to me and my kids!
tamuriaApril 15, 2017 at 12:28 pm
Mindy, I’m so sure you will be. Especially with that wonderful example from your own mother-in-law.
Katarina AnderssonMay 11, 2017 at 5:28 am
True, it can often be tricky with ‘new’ family relations …. in-laws, grandparents interfering or non-interfering, etc. However, I would say from other positions within these extended family dynamics you often need to bite your tongue. Being a sister when your brothers or sister get married and you have new people and new dynamics, you often need to bite your tongue too and pretend to not see or hear too much. 😉
tamuriaMay 11, 2017 at 3:37 pm
So true, Katarina, you often have to pretend not to see and hear too much. Especially when newer family members are involved.