Do you have a favorite grandchild? Chances are you do, but let’s hope you don’t let it show when you’re with your grandchildren. Children are observant — they pick up cues from our bodies and faces even when we may be saying something different. We think we’re concealing our feelings but unconsciously, we may be sending a message: I love you more or I love you less.
I’ve been very conscious of not showing favoritism with my two oldest granddaughters who are sisters. Despite their four-year age difference, they do many activities together — piano, horseback riding, singing, and art — so it’s hard not to compare. In fact, sometimes my 11-year old granddaughter has asked me, “Who did it better?”
What I’ve learned is to look for their unique talents and hone in on those when giving feedback.
Susan Adcox, who writes about grandparenting issues on LiveAbout, shared some wisdom on how to avoid playing favorites with your grandchildren.
Favoritism is a dirty word in most families. Both parents and grandparents want to believe that they are not guilty of playing favorites. Many psychologists say that there are favorites in every family. The key to sound parenting and grandparenting is to realize that one may have favorites, but it’s not okay to play favorites. In other words, grandparents must strive to provide appropriate love and support for all their grandchildren, regardless of the level of affection they feel.
Special Challenges for Grandparents
Avoiding favoritism can be even more difficult for grandparents than for parents. It’s easier to treat children and grandchildren equally if you can treat them the same. Because you’re likely to have more diversity in grandchildren than in children, treating them the same becomes impossible, and treating them equally becomes difficult.
Here are some of the ways in which grandchildren may be different from each other:
- They vary in age.
- They’re different genders.
- They have different economic situations.
- They live in different families, and grandparents may have closer relationships with some of their adult children than others.
- Some grandchildren are the offspring of divorced parents. Divorce can weaken family ties when it makes contacting the grandchildren difficult. It can strengthen the grandparent-grandchild relationship in situations where the grandparent becomes kind of a surrogate parent.
- They live in different places, and relationships with the distant grandchildren may be quite different from those who live nearby.
- Some grandchildren are step-grandchildren acquired through a blended family.
Added to these differences in grandchildren’s circumstances, grandchildren will also exhibit individual differences that will affect how grandparents relate to them.
- Children who have behavior problems may be harder to love.
- Children who have health issues may receive extra attention.
- Children may have personality clashes with grandparents.