As I was writing my book, When Being a Grandma Isn’t So Grand: 4 Keys to L.O.V.E. Your Grandchild’s Parents, I realized that in order to help us grandmas improve our relationship with our grandchild’s parents — especially their mothers — we need to hear what moms have to say about the grandparent relationship.
I surveyed over 50 moms and asked them what they want from the grandparents. Many moms who responded said it was cathartic to answer my questions. Most of their poignant responses fell into two categories: they want respect and empathy.
Moms Want Respect
- Set some rules for your house. Your grandchildren will respect you more if you have some rules, just like they have at home. Then, when the parents get the kids back, they don’t have to “re-teach” manners and rules.
- Times change and so do parenting methods. You can’t expect your grandchildren to be raised the same way you raised your children. If you believe you raised your children well, have faith in the way they are raising their children.
- Respect the parents’ rules. Don’t question their decisions or choices, especially in front of the grandchildren.
- Don’t get defensive when their parenting methods are different from yours. Some parenting choices are a result of things that didn’t work in their childhood. But it doesn’t mean they love us any less and it doesn’t mean they’re trying to make us wrong. Many choices are based on new information and theories.
- Follow the parents’ requests for healthy eating. Today’s parents are much more health conscious and aware of food choices than our generation. Don’t feed your grandchildren treats if you know they’re not allowed in their own homes.
Moms Want Empathy
- Don’t give unsolicited advice. Parents would love to share their challenges with us but are reluctant because they fear we’ll offer advice or solutions rather than empathy and understanding.
- When you call, ask if it’s a good time to talk. Don’t get upset when you call and they can’t talk. They may be in the middle of a frenzy with the kids or just enjoying some time together as a family.
- Acknowledge the parents’ hard work, not just at home but also at their jobs. Today’s parents work long hours and have challenging careers. Ask about their lives and not just how the grandchildren are doing.
- Don’t judge with words or body language. Many moms would like to share their perspectives and offer some insight into their parenting methods. But when they sense they’re being judged, they withdraw and feel safer not risking judgment.
- Read articles that support their choices. Talk about what you’ve learned so you have a better understanding of their parental decisions.
- Offer help whenever possible. Today’s parents are harried and over committed. They need all the help they can get whether it’s taking the grandchildren for an evening so they can have a date night or offering to run a few errands.
- Don’t minimize parents’ concerns. Recognize that parenting is very different than when we were parents. So much more information is available now and it can raise concerns for parents.
- Be active and present. Don’t just sit there doing your own thing. Engage with your grandchild and leave the hard work and discipline to the parents.
Remember that relationships are not static. We need to consciously work on keeping them fresh and current. Respectful communication between the generations makes all the difference in the world for creating a family that enjoys being together and creating lifelong memories.