For single parents, having grandparents around can be very useful. It can also becoming very difficult, depending on the circumstances. If the grandparents are from your side of the family, at least you have knowledge of their parenting style and have previous experience interacting with them on an intimate level. If they are from the other side of the family, you may run into more problems than you know what to do with, simply because you do not have that same communication background.
– Understand the situation:
Since each single parent household stems form it’s own unique circumstances, it is very hard to lend one set of guidelines. If you get familiar with your situation and realistically look at it from all angles, it will be easier to come up with practical solutions to the problems that you face.
* Are the grandparents your family, or the other side’s family?
* Is the other parent deceased, divorced, absent, or involved to some degree with the kids?
* Does the other parent have another partner in their life?
* Are the grandparents living close by or far away?
* How involved do the grandparents want to be with the children?
* How involved do YOU want them to be with the children?
* What level of communication do you have with the grandparents?
* Do you view the grandparents as a positive or negative influence on your children?
* Do you have similar parenting styles or completely different ones?
* What is your personal relationship like with the grandparents?
All these things will greatly affect the relationship you have with your children’s grandparents. And whether you like it or not, your relationship with them will filter down to your kids as well.
– Your Goals:
Ask yourself what kind of message you want to give your children about the role of grandparents. Do you need help from them daily, weekly, or monthly? Are they just the kind of grandparents that come around on the Holidays? As long as the grandparents are not abusive or influencing the children negatively, the kids should have the opportunity to know them for the people that they are. Family tradition tends to play a role in just how involved grandparents are in a young child’s life. If you need the help, and they are willing to offer, take them up on it. Don’t try to be the super parent just because you are trying to prove to yourself that you can do it alone. Your children will grow into much more diverse individuals by having multiple influences in their lives.
– Check Yourself:
Try to keep your personal feelings about the grandparents to yourself. Don’t allow your emotions to cloud your children’s time with these people. In time, they will develop their own opinions. Those should be based solely on their own experiences with their grandparents. If they come to you to talk about their relationships, guide them without adding your own thoughts. Often times, you have to address the grandparents as an extended version of the ex-spouse in a divorce. These are people that may or may not want to be involved with the children, that have blood ties to them, and will be connected to them forever. You want your children to be able to make their own determinations about whether or not they enjoy the company of these people. You should respect that.
– Setting Boundaries:
No matter which side of the family you are dealing with, there have to be some basic guidelines that are clearly defined. You don’t have to have a big meeting of the minds to get them out there either. At different times, as things come up, you can gently draw your lines so that grandparents know how much help you need from them and where you feel their help should stop. You are raising your children and you are the sole person responsible for their well-being. You should always be on their side. You may have great helpers that never need any guidelines because they keep themselves in check. You may have to constantly put your foot down and declare that you are the parent. Either way, be ready to know where you draw your own lines and help the grandparents understand where those lines are. Doing that with minimal upset is ideal, but sometimes you have to make a stink for your kids!
– Your Parents:
If the grandparents are your family, you are at the advantage. Even if you have a limited or poor relationship with them form the get go, you have been dealing with them much longer than your children have. After you have yourself in check, be your child’s advocate. You will be able to talk to your parents on a different level than you can with the other family. (Maybe not easily, but differently.)
Don’t be afraid to be the parent. Let them know that you are grown now and you can make the rules your way. They don’t have to like it, but they do need to try to respect it. If they don’t, you are also grown enough to not put yourself in a position to let them intervene as often as they would like to. Be honest with them about what you want for your child and how you are going to handle the situation. Only you will know how much or little you can ask your own parents for help. Use your personal experience with them to keep the communication as open as you can.
– The Other Parents:
Consider the other grandparents feelings and situation before you are too hard on them. Is their child (your ex) deceased? Run off? Involved in another life? If these parents are dealing with the grief of losing their own child, they will likely have a totally different view of your children. They will probably need the attention and time with their grandchildren much more since their own child has passed away. It will also probably be much easier for you to understand their plight and tolerate them in that case.
A runaway parent leaves behind grandparents who have a whole different set of issues. They may want to be very involved because they feel guilty for making mistakes with their own child. They may harbor resentment toward you for not being able to make a relationship with their child work. Who knows? They are going to bring emotions to the table that you will not understand, and you likely will not be able to deal with. Chances are, whatever communication issues you had with your ex started at their home. Be prepared to find ways to get around those issues, because you are going to have the same issue with their parents. Do it for your kid’s sake.
If the other parent is still involved with the kids, then they should be the parent controlling the amount of time that their own parents have with the children. If you have issues with these grandparents, you need to start with the ex.
– Distant Grandparents:
Grandparents that do not live closely can be a blessing or a curse. If you need help, you may feel more alone if the people you trust are not near by. Then again, you may feel relieved that there is enough distance there to maintain your own routine with your kids.
Do your best to keep communication open with the kids and their grandparents. Help them learn to respect the role of their grandparents, even though they do not see them very often. Set up a weekly call day when the kids can phone their grandparents to chat about their lives. If the grandparent send gifts and things instead of coming over for the Holidays, be sure to have the kids write out thank you notes. It will help the grandparents feel special. They will need all the love they can get if they are so far from the children. It is the least you can do since they do not have much contact.
– Over-Involved Grandparents:
Grandparents who want to get all into your business are harder to deal with than the rest I think. You will find yourself always putting your foot down, or being rolled over. Remember your boundaries. If you show that you are willing to ask for help when you need it, they may be less likely to constantly hound you for more responsibility. Remember that they are only trying to help, whether you like or agree with their methods is beside the point. You can control the amount of time the kids have with their grandparents. Just try not to take them out of the equation unless they are a threat to your children. Let them see that you are a capable adult and ask them to respect that you need your own space to raise your children. Make sure they feel appreciated for the help they offer. (Even if you don’t accept it.)
– Bad Influences:
Sadly, sometimes people of any age are not the greatest influence to have around your kids. That may be the case with the grandparents in question. You know what is good for your kids and what isn’t. Don’t be afraid to be the grown up and limit their exposure to negative influences. Be careful how much detail you give to your children about why their contact is limited. If you are concerned about their safety or well-being but still want them to know their grandparents, make the time a family visit. Intervene when you have to. If there is a major well-being concern, then you may need to avoid contact completely. You will just have to explain that to your children when they are old enough to understand.
If there is a poor influence issue, you probably will not be able to very honest with the grandparents about it. If you are, great. Be honest, and you might see them work toward something better because they see it as a road block to seeing their grandkids. If you can’t talk candidly with them about it, don’t try. Put yourself in the middle, supervise what you can and prepare your kids for the things that you can’t interject on.
– Great Helpers:
If you are lucky enough to have helpful, available and loving grandparent sin your life, first, go hug them and tell them how much they mean to you. Most of us are not so lucky!! Make sure that you don’t take advantage of their helpfulness, no matter how much they tell you they don’t mind. They did raise their won children and as much as they love to help, they should not have to raise your kids too! Accept the help and offer thanks as often as you can. Keep them involved in the children’s lives by reporting on their school or extra curricular progress. Count your blessings that you have people in your life that care enough to be involve with your children when you truly need it most.
– Typical issues:
Following are a few problems that may arise with grandparents, and some helpful ways to handle them.
* Playing favorites – If there is an obvious favorite child among the grandparents, try to insist upon all the children going with them instead of just one. Make the grandparents aware that you notice them treating one child differently than the others. They may not realize it themselves. Encourage the children to remember that their grandparents love them equally and ask the grandparents to try to share their affection more evenly as well. Make them aware that the children are noticing the difference and it is affecting their self-esteem. If the grandparents do not adjust their behavior, you may have to limit their contact until they see that you are not backing down. Your children should be loved equally by everyone in their lives.
* Spoiling – Some grandparent are overzealous with their gifting and doing for your children. It can lead to gluttony and even resentment toward you if you cannot keep up with what grandma buys them. Be sure to set limits of gifts that are purchased. You can go with a monetary amount, but some people have larger budgets than others. You may find that limiting the number of gifts per event is helpful. Either way, make sure the grandparents know you are conscious of the spoiling and that you are trying to raise your children to understand the value of wanting things they don’t get right away. Also, be ready to let them indulge the kids a bit. Grandparents are there to spoil a little if they can. Consider how blessed you are that these people want to have such a large part in your child’s life.
* Never coming around – Unfortunately, if grandparents are absent, you have to field this on your own. Just like everything else going on in your life, you are going to have to find a kind and respectful way of explaining that your kids just don’t get to see their grandparents for one reason or another. Try to keep your own resentment out of the conversation. Remind them that their grandparents love them and help put the situation into age-appropriate words. Even if the grandparents don’t want to come around, tell the truth as gently as possible and wait until they are ready to understand the reasoning before you are that frank with them.
* Discounting your authority – Do not tolerate grandparents discounting your authority over your own children. Remove yourself and the grandparent form the situation as soon as possible and lay out your ground rules very clearly. You arte the parent. They can respect that or take it on the road. You must have the main authority in your child’s life. Grandparent scan give gifts and slack the rules a bit, but if you say “No,” and they say “Yes,” you have every right to address the situation. Limit their contact with the child if they cannot respect your place in that child’s life as the mother.
* “You’re doing it all wrong!” – Most of the time, this is said lovingly, although it does not come out that way. Try your best to smile and firmly remind them that you are doing the best you know how, just as they did when they were raising their children. Open your mind to listen to their advice (even if it is after they make you mad…) because they have gone through the parenting thing before. A lot of times their opinions and methods are very valid. Sometimes they get caught in the generation trap when they just don’t understand the society changes today, but most of the time they have good points to make.
No matter what the situation is or how involved you want the grandparents to be, remind yourself that you are the parent of these children and it is your job to do the best you can to raise them. You are doing this for them! Set boundaries, ask for help when you need it, let the kids form their own opinions, and don’t be afraid to have a backbone when you need it. You are a good parent. You are not as alone as you think. You CAN do this!!