We’ve all been there. Sitting back, feeling slightly redundant, while Granny Dearest takes over your parenting duties without so much as a second thought.
It can be a blessed relief, of course. Having someone who clearly adores your child step in and lend a hand gives us a much-needed break, even if it’s just to finish a cup of coffee before it goes cold.
But what happens when their involvement stops being helpful and becomes plain interfering? Follow our tips to a harmonious relationship with grandparents – and saving your sanity.
1Set your boundaries
Be clear from the start about what’s important to you. Whether it’s following a strict bedtime routine, avoiding sugary foods or being disciplined in a certain way, make sure the grandparents understand your choices. Though they may not necessarily agree, they need to know it’s the way you want to do things – and be prepared to toe the line.
2Be clear about the help you want
Don’t assume they know what it is you want them to do. Parenting styles have changed. What was commonplace for them may seem totally alien to you. But if you don’t have the conversation, you’ll be starting off on the wrong foot.
3But don’t patronise
Remember, they were doing this long before you were. And whatever it is they’re doing that you think is so wrong, it pays to bear in mind that you/your partner turned out fine!
Quietly fuming while Granny or Grandpa does something you disagree with or complaining to your partner as soon as you’ve waved goodbye helps no one. If you feel a grandparent has over-stepped the mark, tell them. Chances are they don’t realise they’ve offended and would be mortified that they had. But wait until you can get them alone. They might be undermining you in front of the children, but resist the urge to do it back.
5Choose your words carefully
No one likes to be criticised and grandparents are no exception. Our natural reaction is to shut down or respond with anger, which will only enflame the situation. Phrases such as “I really appreciate your advice, it’s good to know I can come to you if I need help” can work wonders. Or try starting the conversation on a positive note, with a compliment or a thank you, before bringing up what’s bothering you.
6Find ways for them to help
If your relationship with the grandparents has hit rocky ground, the temptation could be to reduce contact or even cut them off entirely. But giving them a specific role you know doesn’t cause issues, like collecting your child from an after-school activity, will make them feel valued and respected – and keep them involved.
7Support your partner
If it’s the in-laws causing friction, respect your partner’s position. They need to maintain a good relationship with their parents, however infuriating you find them. Decide between you – not in from of them – what needs to happen and communicate it clearly.
8Be honest with yourself
Have they really crossed the line or are your own insecurities as a parent causing you to read genuine, helpful advice as criticism? Step back and think about what they’ve said or done to upset you. Was it really so bad?
9Go easy on them!
It’s a grandparent’s job is to spoil their grandchildren – it’s one of their greatest joys! If they want to give your child ice cream loaded with chocolate sauce once in a while, let them. Your child will look back fondly on their grandparents’ generosity. And it’s wise to choose your battles.
10Make it work
Remember, however difficult the family dynamic can be, these relationships are important to everyone. Try hard to keep the lines of communication open so you can remain part of each others’ lives. If you really can’t resolve it together, consider seeing a family therapist or ask a trusted family friend to ask as mediator.