If you are blessed to have grandchildren in your life, you are blessed indeed! Watching your son or daughter’s family blossom and grow is an exciting reward of having been a parent yourself, and it is fun, interesting, and can bring great joy to be a Gramma, Nana, Grandpa or Papa to little ones, big kids, teenagers, and young adults. They bring youth and vitality to life, keep you young, and give you something to look forward to. It is both a privilege and an opportunity to be involved in the lives of a younger generation.
“Grandma's Lil' Girl”
Grandma, I was thinking of you today and a smile tickled my face.
Remembering all the things you taught me, like always to say grace.
I remember sitting in your lap while you read the Bible out loud,
To hear me sing a gospel song made you so proud.
I thought of those Saturday mornings I watched them fix your hair,
I remember crossing the street and hearing
GIRL YOU BETTER STOP RIGHT THERE!!!
I remember the goodness you instilled in me, though sometimes it doesn't show,
You played a very special part in my life, and I thought that you should know....
My childhood is filled with memories of you that you couldn't buy
With all the gold in the world,
And even though I am all grown up, at heart I will always be GRANDMA'S LIL' GIRL!!!
— Donna C. Elkins
What happens, though, if things get tense between you and one or both of your grandchild’s parents? What about when boundaries are unclear, or you step into new territory and aren’t sure how to proceed?
Navigating boundaries with your grandchild’s parents can be challenging, but it’s worth the effort to work through any road-bumps that you meet along the way. Your grandchildren need you, and chances are good you’re willing to put in the work it takes to keep a strong bond with those precious kiddos.
Following are some practical methods for grandparents (and parents, too!) that will help keep family life sailing along smoothly and happily.
6 Tips for Grandparents to Bond with Grandkids – Minus Any Drama
- 1. Start on a grace note. New grandparents and new parents are both adjusting to a big change with the addition of a baby to the family, and it is helpful to start out with clear boundaries that allow for a bit of flexibility, plenty of grace, and a whole lotta love. As a grandparent, try saying, “We’re both new at this, and I want to love this child and be as helpful to you as I can be, without getting in your way or telling you how to parent. Please let me know your expectations, and don’t worry about stepping on my toes.”If you are already well on your way along the grandparenting path, it’s not too late for a reset. Try saying (or emailing or texting) something like, “Sometimes I have been a bit of a bother in my attempt to be the best grandma I can be. I want you to tell me what works best for you, and don’t be afraid to share your pet peeves, or to tell me what you want or need from me. You are an amazing parent to ____, and I want to support you in any way I can.”
- 2. Seek first to understand. When something goes awry, or you suspect someone in your family circle is upset but you don’t have confirmation, ask questions before you react. A lot of frustration, anger, distrust, and drama can be avoided by gaining clarity before you act on your feelings. If the discussion is uncomfortable, acknowledge that by saying something like, “I love you, and there is something I’d like to talk about with you that might make us both uncomfortable. Is that okay?” Gaining permission from the other party up front can help ease tension.
- 3. Assume the best. In most cases, both parents and grandparents have the best interests of the child at heart. Sure, one side may be “overly sensitive” or one side “too bossy,” but regardless of personality flaws, you all love the child(ren) in question, and the hearts of every party to the disagreement were likely in the right place. Take a step back from the situation, and remember that a win in this case means a win for the kids – it isn’t about winning an argument.
- 4. If you don’t have anything nice to say ... don’t criticize the parents. Parenting rules, methods, and norms are probably different than when you raised your children, and that’s okay. Remember that a good portion of your parenting came from learning and experience; it’s okay for your grandchildren’s parents to figure it out as they go. Resist the urge to tell them how to do their job, unless they ask you, specifically, for advice.
- 5. Avoid the comparison trap. If your grandchildren are lucky, they have more than one set of grandparents who love them and get to spend time with them. If this is the case, you may not be on equal financial footing, or one set may live nearby and one set across the country. Resist feelings of jealousy if the “other” grandparents can give fancier presents, or live closer and can spend more time with the grandkids. Be grateful for the opportunities you have for interaction, and don’t sully your love and generosity by comparing your grandparenting to someone else’s. If you find yourself in the midst of an unhealthy family dynamic that pushes this information in a negative way, try a response like, “We can’t afford as much as his other grandparents can for Christmas gifts, but we’d love to spend time enjoying a memorable experience with ______. Our budget is about $xx, what would you recommend as a fun activity we can do together on our next visit?”
- 6. Set your own boundaries, and communicate them clearly. If you live near one or more sets of grandkids, it is important to set expectations and let your grandchildren’s parents know how involved you want to be in their lives. Maybe you work and you don’t have the energy to babysit the kids every Friday or Saturday night. Would a monthly overnight stay be reasonable to give you time with the kids, and their parents an evening to themselves? Maybe you only see the kids once in awhile and you’d actually love to see them more often. Ask!
Maybe you have more than one set of grandkids in the vicinity, and you need to set limits on how often you see each set of kids to reserve a bit of time for yourself. Maybe you’d love to take the kids to lunch somewhere with a playland once a week, but you need their parents to foot the bill, since you are on a limited income.
The thing about grandkids is – they only grow older. It’s worth taking a deep breath and talking out the details while they are young, so you can make the most of the time you have with them, instead of spending time sweating the small stuff. Negotiating, setting, respecting, and sticking to boundaries with your family once grandchildren are on the scene can sometimes be tricky, but it’s worth it to build and strengthen the ties that bind. Your grandchildren want and need you in their lives, and you’ll both be richer for having a strong relationship and a lasting bond.
Last but certainly not least, remember this:
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
— Colossians 3:13
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What are you struggling with today, or this year, that is different from struggles in your younger days? Send us your prayer request, or send our blog team a note and let us know what topics you’d like to see addressed here from a faith perspective.