There are many benefits to ensuring your kids have a strong, healthy relationship with their grandparents. Grandparents can help to form secure attachments. They offer love, support, attention, and interaction. Plus, they’re typically over the moon when it comes to spending time with their grandkids.
But what do you do when they start crossing a line?
It’s okay to listen to advice from your parents about raising your kids. It’s okay to go to them with questions if you’re struggling. But there’s a difference between listening to wisdom and dealing with grandparents who want to interfere with what you’re doing.
You might have a different parenting style than they’re used to. Or, you might want to raise your children differently than you were raised. So, what can you do when they try to step in and change things?
Don’t Assume the Worst
It’s easy to get defensive when you see anyone trying to undermine your parenting style — including your own parents. You might assume they think you’re not doing a good job. Or, you might wonder if they think they know better.
Don’t immediately assume the worst. In many cases, grandparents are just trying to help, and they have good intentions. They aren’t trying to step in and suggest you’re a bad parent or you’re doing things incorrectly. They might not even fully realize they’re doing something that goes against your parenting style.
You should still have a conversation about it, but when it’s coming from a place of understanding, and you don’t have a defensive attitude, you’re likely to step into that conversation with a clearer, calmer head.
Let Them Know Right Away
As soon as a boundary has been crossed, talk to your parents or in-laws about it. Let them know you appreciate their input and the time they spend with your kids. But ask them to follow things the way you do when it comes to certain situations.
You can also let them know that you appreciate their advice and expertise, and you’ll be sure to ask for it if you need help.
Setting boundaries as soon as possible will give grandparents “guidelines” to follow. They’ll know what’s expected and what not to do, so if they cross a line again, they won’t be surprised when you bring it up.
Be a United Front
No matter who’s parents are trying to interfere, it’s essential that you form a united front with your spouse, partner, or co-parent. It’s not always easy to speak up to your parents, even as adults, but you can’t do it alone.
Both parents need to be involved in setting boundaries with grandparents. That doesn’t mean it needs to be an all-out attack. Let them know what you need and want while showing respect, kindness, and compassion. Grandparents should never be made to feel like a burden, so talk to your partner about how you want to approach the situation and make sure you’re on the same page.
Work Out Past Issues
Maybe you want your parents to be a part of your children’s lives, but there are unresolved issues that make your relationship with them tense. Your kids will quickly pick up on that, and it can make you more defensive.
If possible, work out any issues you might have with your parents or your partner’s parents. Doing so can change your perspective on the relationship they have with your kids. It will help to create a healthier family dynamic. More importantly, it will make it easier for everyone to communicate freely. So, you can feel comfortable talking about boundaries and expectations, and they can feel comfortable coming to you with advice.
Therapy can also allow you a safe space to process your feelings about your parents or in-laws and help you formulate appropriate boundaries meant to sustain relationships. To learn more about how therapy can help, please schedule a free phone consultation.
Jennifer Perera is a mom of two boys, a spouse and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. She is also Certified as a Perinatal Mental Health Professional by Postpartum Support International. She has a private practice in Springfield, New Jersey and also sees clients throughout New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, and Illinois via telehealth. Her passion is helping new moms and dads find their joy again in parenthood through individual and couples counseling. She also runs workshops for new parents, teaching them techniques and strategies to help them have a stronger relationship - built to thrive during the parenthood years. Jennifer specializes in working with parents during the prenatal and postpartum periods and those coping with grief or loss issues surrounding pregnancy.