There’s a reason why the cliche “it takes a village to raise children” exists. Because it’s true. Who is usually the first and most willing village member?
There are so many fantastic benefits that come with having your children’s grandparents involved in their lives. It gives your child more stability, an even greater sense of safety, and another source of trusted wisdom. Also, grandparents can be a lot of fun.
Grandparents also benefit from having close bonds with their grandchildren. Research has shown that caring for the grandkids can keep depression at bay, improve mental sharpness, and increases their social connections with others.
But what happens when your parents or the in-laws become a bit too involved in your child’s life?
What if they become a “helicopter grandparent”?
Signs of a helicopter grandparent
If you already have a sense of a grandparent being too involved in the lives of your kids, there’s a good chance they are. Should you need any other proof, look for these leading signs of a helicopter granny:
- He/she stops by multiple time a week (or even a day!)
- He/she calls at least a few times each week
- He/she doesn’t work or participate in many hobbies
- Helicopter grannies also tend to be more “needy” emotionally and must have their feelings affirmed by you or your spouse on a regular basis.
How to handle an overly involved grandparent
First and most important: you are the parent. Parent with confidence and remind yourself that you call the shots, not granny.
Look back on how you communicate with your parents and in-laws. Do you give them the sense that you’re confident in your abilities to parent your child? Or does it seem like you’re seeking their approval on a regular basis? You could be unintentionally signalling to them that you need or want their help, which could be why they’re overstepping their boundaries.
Here’s the next important thing to remember:
Grandparents come from a place of love and good intentions
The unsolicited advice you received over the years didn’t come from a place of hate. As annoyed as you may feel, it’s important to remember that granny genuinely wants to help.
Your parents and in-laws have been through these trenches before. They’ve dealt with colicky babies, children who refuse to sleep in their own beds, and teenagers with terrible attitudes (you very well may have been the one who gave them that experience, after all).
Giving advice on how to raise the grandkids also gives them the wonderful opportunity to look back and reminisce on the years they were fortunate enough to parent you, your partner, and any siblings.
Next time you feel like screaming when granny gives advice, take a deep breath, remember she comes from a place of love, and respond by saying something along the lines of:
- “I appreciate your wisdom. If I need help, I’ll be sure to come to you.”
- “Thanks for your opinion, I’ll think about that.”
- “I know you did things differently, but we’re happy doing it this way.”
If you’re having a dispute over a way you’re parenting your child (like putting them to sleep on their back rather than their tummy, when to stop breastfeeding, etc.), it may help to print out copies of the latest research on those topics. Remember, your grandparents were parents quite a while ago, and a lot of the advice they were given by medical professionals has changed drastically over the years.
How to handle rude advice
By no means should you tolerate someone who is being rude to you or even bullying you about your parenting methods. If it’s taking place in front of your children, you can imagine how horrible an example that’s setting.
There are two ways to handle this:
- Arrange for a chat over tea or coffee (and not in front of the kids)
- Send a handwritten note
Remain diplomatic and focus on making peace with granny rather than confrontation. Make it clear that you want to make things work, and you love the fact that she is visiting the grandkids – but she needs to respect your boundaries.
When you may need to go on a grandparenting “break”
Parents (and their kids) should never feel that they must endure emotional, mental or physical abuse to maintain the relationship between grandparents and their grandchildren.
If you need to break ties with grandparents, start by making it clear that it’s temporary and explain what needs to change before they are welcome into your lives again. Should there be no signs of improvement, it’s okay to keep them out of your life. Your family will be happier and healthier for it.
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