32. How To Help Your Parents Grandparent: 7 Do’s and Dont’s – Rose Hart-Landsberg
"Grandparents are often enthusiastic about spending time with the kids but that doesn’t mean there aren’t limits. Make sure to keep the dynamic healthy for everyone by limiting the help you ask for to things you really need."
Do plan gift giving
Family members that don’t live with you and your kids may not be up on what things they have and what they’re into, (it can change so fast.) You could leave your parents or in-laws to their own devices to pick out gifts but that can lead to extra stuff around the house that your kids aren’t into. It’s also a bit of a letdown for the gift-giver when the gifts are not well received so no one wins. If you know your child is due for a new stuffed animal or set of headphones, why not let your family members know ahead of time so they can “reserve” those items for gift-giving. Even better, you may want to assign gift “types” such as clothes or art supplies to one set of grandparents each so going forward they can stock up throughout the year without bugging you to ask what they should get. It might also be helpful to keep an updated list of clothing sizes for growing kids who get clothes as gifts.
Don’t ignore boundaries
Many grandparents still have full active lives outside of their parenting and grandparenting responsibilities. Just because they’re crazy about your kids it doesn’t mean they’re available at the drop of a hat. Make sure to notice and respect boundaries that may include scheduling babysitting and play dates a few weeks ahead of time, or not staying out for that second drink on date night when they’re babysitting and it’s getting late. It’s tempting to treat family with less formal respect in some situations but beware, that can breed resentment and less help in the long run.
Do respect house rules
Maybe your strict upbringing is something you’ve decided not to emulate with your kids, that’s one of the great things about being a parent – getting to do it your way – but when you’re at your parents or in-laws home make sure your kids know that the house rules are to be followed even if they’re different than your rules at home. This is a great lesson for your kids about adjusting behavior to the space and situation but it also reinforces the grandparents as authority figures who warrant respect. That is something that’s especially important for grandparents who help with regular childcare but the most important reason is that a respectful dynamic is a strong foundation for your kids’ relationship to their older family members for their entire lives.
Don’t over ask
Grandparents are often enthusiastic about spending time with the kids but that doesn’t mean there aren’t limits. Make sure to keep the dynamic healthy for everyone by limiting the help you ask for to things you really need. Maybe your parents are happy to babysit on a Friday night here and there – maybe it’s tempting to hit them up every weekend but doing so may wear out the favor too quickly. Play the long game and make sure you cultivate a dynamic that’s sustainable long-term.
Do acknowledge their help and effort
Grandparents get to do a lot of the fun spoiling but childcare is childcare so even if your family members are happy to help, make sure to acknowledge the time and effort that goes into that help. Not to mention, many older folks have a lot less energy than they used to, so chasing toddlers in your 70s is a lot harder than in your 30s.
Don’t undermine them in front of the kids
There’s nothing harder than caring for kids who don’t respect your authority. You may disagree with some things your parents do with your kids but barring extreme circumstances it’s best to discuss it later when the kids aren’t around. If your kids see you arguing with or disobeying your parents they are likely to assume it’s okay for them to do it as well and that may have long-term damaging effects on the grandparent/grandchild relationship.
Do communicate clearly and honestly
It’s important to cultivate honest communication. Tell your parents what you want and need and then be prepared to listen honestly to whether or not those things work for them. Having kids inevitably changes the dynamic of any family in fun and complex ways for everyone and your parents are likely thrilled to be along for the ride but also probably exhausted. They raised you, after all.
Rose Hart-Landsberg helps produce the Informed Pregnancy Podcast hosted by Dr. Elliot Berlin, DC and serves as managing editor of the new Informed Pregnancy Blog. She also spearheads podcast and blog sponsor partnerships and helps with various related content and copy writing for The Informed Pregnancy Project and Berlin Wellness Group.
In her free time she enjoys editing and writing fiction, makeup artistry, and is currently learning Turkish.