“When I was raising my kids. . . ” “That’s the way we always did it,” and “My kids turned out okay,” are common phrases spoken by grandparents when discussing childrearing techniques. Here’s some advice on grandparenting.
“Grandparents sometimes find it difficult to let their adult children parent, especially if it conflicts with their beliefs,” says Cheri Burcham, University of Illinois family life educator. “Opposing values, religious differences, distance and strained relationships can also add to the dispute between generations.” Burcham has some advice for grandparents.
Let them do their job
The most important thing to remember is that you are the grandparent — not the parent. Respect your children’s right to raise their children and follow their lead. Be supportive and loving, and ask your children how you can be of assistance to them.
Don’t compare your childrearing techniques to theirs. Much has changed in the area of child development and the information available to parents. “The most beneficial thing to do is read and update yourself on these new developments — you still may not agree, but at least you will understand where your children are coming from,” said Burcham.
The most frequent cause of conflict is miscommunication between generations. Instead of meddling and giving advice, offer concerns that are expressed tactfully. Pick your battles carefully. And don’t bring up the past, but focus on the present.
“Criticizing adult children in front of the grandchildren is a big no-no,” says Burcham. “If grandchildren sense the stress between generations, they may use this to their advantage by playing one off of the other.”
According to an AARP survey, 50 percent of responding grandparents stated that they frequently play the role of friend or companion to their grandchild. “By adopting this view of the relationship, it certainly alters the grandparent’s viewpoint of the child in respect to discipline and childrearing,” says Burcham. “Step back and enjoy the role of grandparent — it’s one you don’t want to miss,” adds Burcham. Grandchildren can bring out your inner child and make you feel young again, and can give you someone to share your history with. Also, as a grandparent, you may have more time and resources to share with your grandchildren than you did with your own children.
“I recommend that you let your adult children take the lead in rearing their children, and that you don’t interfere unless your grandchild’s safety and well being are threatened,” says Burcham. “The role of grandparent can be very positive and fulfilling and can add a valuable dimension to the family that benefits everyone.”