I’ve been blessed in being physically close to my mother and stepfather, and previously to my in-laws before we had to move. So our kids always had grandparent involved in their lives – I wouldn’t say on a day to day basis, but at least weekly. Although I don’t know any other way, I can only say – and speaking for when I was a child and far removed from my grandparents – that having the connection is a Godsend in so many ways.
My wife and I are quiet hands on with our parenting and are not all that welcoming when other people interfere. But despite the odd small arguments here and there we get on with both sets of parents. We respect their opinions and once in a while give in to the random requests of how to cut hair or where to take them to check the random bruise. But overall there is an understanding both ways of our boundaries which keeps things civil. My wife and I have also telepathically agreed to deal with our own sets of parent when the time comes and issue we have with the other parents we make sure we tell each other honestly.
Having said that I found our kids have another set (s) of family in their lives – although less intimate – is a great outlet for our kids to remain adjusted. Parents can be micro managers and less flexible than the grandparents for obvious reasons. 24 hours with kids is no way close to one a week with them which inevitably gives you a higher tolerance level. But kids need to know that if they are angry or feeling emotional for something with their parents there is an outlet for them as tiny as it may be.
That outlet is a safe place for them, and if you have the luxury of having understanding grandparents you are luckier than most. We also have an understanding with them that whatever issues our kids tell them – depending on the severity – we as parents should be aware of it. However we would not betray the trust of the grandparents and discuss collectively how we can deal with it without telling the kids “oh grandma or grandpa told us that….”.
We also have the mental preparedness that when the kids are at the grandparent’s house they will inevitably break a rule or two – particularly when it comes to sweets and snacks. That’s something we are happy to look past, it gives them great memories with their grandparents – and again gives them an outlet over our daily hawkish parenting. I’m sure this will save us a great number of therapy bills when they grow up.
We also ensure that if there is something important we want the kids to work on, the grandparents are on board. So if we want them to watch less TV, we pass on the message to the grandparents and they can talk about it in a different way – and probably not as direct or authoritative as we would have. We are not their friends, but their grandparents can be, having said that the allegiance of the grandparents should always be on the side of the parents.
Kids can be very manipulative and if the parents and grandparents are not on board problems can quickly arise. Being physically close to them, it is also great to show my kids that we share our cooking with them every now and then, I shovel their drive way during snow storms, and help them out with technology. This gives the kids a better sense of shared and collective family ties which they will take on as we get older.
So many studies show that having grandparents in the kids’ lives is invaluable in so many ways – and without boring you with those references I can definitely attest to that. So if you are lucky enough to have them nearby, it would be a great waste not to include them in your kids’ lives. As long as the understanding, respect and trust is there between you as parents and them.