Do grandparents need boundaries? I’ve worked with parents who’ve struggled with this very issue and now that I’m a Nana I am thinking about what kind of a mom and grandma I want to be.
If you are a parent or even a grandparent, these are some boundaries to consider implementing so that relationships stay healthy and extended family conflicts are kept to a minimum. It is up to you as the parents to explain what the boundaries are if you feel your parents are overstepping.
If you are a grandparent and reading this, consider these boundaries for your relationship with your kids and grandkids:
Don’t stop by unannounced. I would say this applies to both parties, grandparents AND grandkids. Let them know you are stopping by and be sure it’s convenient.
Don’t go against the parent’s rules. If grandparents know that something is not allowed by mom and dad, then they should abide by the same rule when they are with the kids, unless they’ve asked the child’s parents for permission. There’s a fine line between “spoiling” grandkids and undermining parental authority.
This includes giving them more screen time than they are allowed or letting them watch movies that their parents would not want them to watch. As caregivers in your grandchildren’s lives, you should all be on the same page about the values that you are trying to instill in them.
Keep a united front. This goes along with not going against the parent’s rules. Be sure you keep a united front with the parents of your grandkids. If you have a concern, talk to them privately, but do not do it in front of the kiddos. And never talk negatively about your grandchildren’s parents to your grandkids.
Be sure your grandparenting aligns with their parenting. If your kids do not spank their children, then neither should you. If your kids don’t drink in front of their kids, then neither should you.
There is an exception to this alignment rule and that is if your kids are parenting in a negative and harmful way. When your grandkids are in your care, you can be sure that you are teaching good behavior and values, even if their parents are not. No need to demean their parents, just let the kids know that “this is how we do things in Nana and Papi’s house.”
Respect your Kids’ Desires for Gift-giving. I plan to ask my daughter and son if they have preferences about Nana bringing gifts.
Many grandparents want to spoil their grandchildren and some can take it so far that it feels like an insult to the parents, as if they are saying “You’re not doing enough” or “You can’t afford this, so I will give it to them.” It’s okay to set spending limits or let grandparents know of items your child wants but you won’t allow them right now.
My grandchildren are still babies, and having a conversation about grandparental boundaries has not come up. But it is one I plan to have with my son and daughter. I will simply ask, “What sort of boundaries would you have for us as grandparents?”
You may not feel the need to have this discussion with your parents if they are not infringing on any of these boundaries, but it’s a good conversation to have anyway. Healthy families have clear boundaries and communicate with clarity. Otherwise, assumptions can lead to misunderstandings and disappointment.
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