Being a grandparent is a special role many can’t wait to fill. You can’t wait for the little bundles of joy that will fill your life with even more love and joy. You probably already have a long list of ideas about how you will create lasting memories with your beloved grandchildren. As grandparents, you always want to provide the best for your grandchildren and shower them with affection, gifts, and indulgence. However, that can’t come at the expense of you damaging your relationship with their parents. You will need to find a balance between spoiling them and respecting the boundaries set by their parents. Learn how to establish healthy boundaries as grandparents, ensuring a harmonious relationship with your grandchildren and their parents.
Communication is Key
Open and honest communication lays the foundation for successful relationships with our children and grandchildren. Not everyone has the same parenting style. Your children and their partners might not wish to raise their children the same way you did and will have specific rules. They might feel uncomfortable setting boundaries with you. It is challenging to stand up to your parents no matter how old you are.
This is why it would be best if you initiate a sincere conversation about their expectations and boundaries regarding your involvement in their children’s lives. Respect their decisions, parenting styles, and choices, as they are responsible for raising their children. If you have genuine concerns, you can bring them up to them without judging them and ask them to explain them further so you can understand their parenting style better. Understanding their perspective and following their parenting rules will enable you to establish clear and healthy boundaries that align with their values.
Set Clear Guidelines
Once you have discussed the expectations your adult children have for your relationship with your grandchildren, it’s time to establish clear guidelines. Each family may have different rules and limitations, which is why it is vital you adapt to them. Be aware that the rules might differ between your adult children’s families, so make sure you don’t compare them, especially to your children.
I will repeat this again because it is so important: parenting styles might and probably will differ within your family. No parent needs to hear what somebody else is doing differently, even if you consider it better or more aligned with your parenting style.
Ask your adult children about their preferences concerning discipline, screen time, food choices, and any other relevant areas. By respecting their decisions and incorporating them into your healthy boundaries, you will show that you support their parenting decisions, and they can trust you with their children.
Respect Their Schedule
Routine is vital for everyone, but especially for children, which is why it’s crucial to respect the schedules set by their parents. Discuss with your adult children about the children’s sleep and mealtime routines, extracurricular activities, and other commitments so you can plan accordingly. Be mindful of this when planning visits to ensure your plans align with the children’s needs and don’t undermine their parents’ authority or make exceptions to already established rules. No screen time means no screen time, and not no screen time when your parents are looking.
My Emily has a set bedtime routine that we have been following to the letter for the last 2 years, regardless of where we are and who we are with. We start getting ready by 19:30, brush her teeth, use the toilet, put on pyjamas, read a book, and she is in bed by 8. She is horrible any time we deviate from the schedule; she gets over tired if we run late, can’t fall asleep after and keeps waking up during the night.
We follow the routine for her own good, but sometimes this can be difficult for grandparents, that don’t get to spend as much time with her as they would like. They live in a different country, and when they visit us, or we visit them, they just want to squeeze in as much time as possible, but I can’t allow them to do so at the expense of my child. I had to have a difficult conversation with them about healthy boundaries, but we ended up on the same page. Remember, their schedule is there for a reason, and following it will give them a sense of stability, ensuring they can enjoy their time with you.
Be Mindful of Overindulgence
As grandparents, it’s natural to want to spoil your grandkids, but you can’t go overboard. Too much of everything, even the good thing, is never good. For example, not only can it disrupt the discipline and values instilled by the parents, but it can also prevent them from learning some valuable lessons.
Emily had a phase where she would say it didn’t matter if she broke something because Grandpa could just buy it again. We don’t want her to be afraid of playing with her toys, but at the same time, we want her to be mindful when playing. Now she knows that if something breaks, it is ok and nothing wrong happened, but she will not get a replacement immediately. Now, her grandparents set healthy boundaris and focus on quality time, shared experiences, and creating memories instead of shopping. She cares a lot more about the time when they took her horseback riding than when they took her to buy a toy she played with a bit.
Parenting styles and preferences will probably change over time as the kids grow up or as your adult children come into their role as parents. As grandparents, you need to embrace these changes gracefully and not make a big deal about it. Remember, it is their first time parenting a baby, toddler, or teen, and they are already having a difficult time trying to give them the best start in life. They don’t need you making things even more difficult. By keeping an open mind and adapting when needed, you will foster a healthy and supportive environment for your children and grandchildren.
Setting healthy boundaries as grandparents is essential to nurture relationships with your grandchildren and their parents. Create a healthy environment where your grandchildren can thrive while still enjoying the warmth and love you will give them. Remember, your role as grandparents is to support, guide, and cherish them while respecting the boundaries set by their parents. This is especially true if you want to keep having a relationship with them, as even the most amicable parents will have to say: “Enough is enough” if you continue undermining their authority.