Growing up, I had a close relationship with my grandparents and have wonderful memories of our time spent together. My grandma loved to teach me about plants, and we’d play card games and cook together. My grandpa took me camping, fishing, and was always sneaking me extra dessert. Grandparents and their grandchildren have a special bond. This bond will look different for each family, but there are some ways you can build and encourage the bond between your kids and their grandparents.
Encourage time together. Time spent together will help grandparents and grandchildren bond naturally. This will look different for each family, but some ideas could include cooking, running errands, attending a child’s sporting events or school activities, going to the park, playing board games, going to a movie, sitting and talking, or going out to dinner. Some grandparents find that having a set time assures they get to spend that time with their grandchildren. For example, every Saturday morning, the kids and grandparents go out to breakfast or every Tuesday, the grandparents babysit the kids while you enjoy a date night out with your significant other.
If you do not live in the same city as grandpa and grandma, try having a phone or video call at a set time each week. The nice thing about weekly calls or video calls is it allows for following up on things the next week. Giving your children talking points can help the conversation with their grandparents flow better. If you know your parents are struggling with things to talk about with your children, send your parents a quick text or email reminding them to ask about how the big math test or big game or playdate went. These are some good examples of ways you can facilitate the bond between the grandparents and your children from a long distance.
You need to handle your children’s discipline. A common source of conflict between you and your parents can be discipline of your children. Your parents may have different disciplinary styles or feel different behaviors deserve reprimanding. Let them know that, in most situations, you will be responsible for discipline. This allows them to enjoy the fun aspects of time spent with your kids. When bringing up the subject with them, be kind, patient, and explain to them that you don’t want anything to come between them and your kids and the special relationship they have. If discipline must be handled by the grandparents, they should try to stay as close to your disciplinary style as possible or delay punishment for when you return.
Allow your kids to be spoiled - a little. My kids know that when they spend the night with my parents, they will have donuts for breakfast. They can also count on any number of sweet treats while they are visiting them. On birthdays, they usually get spoiled by gifts from their grandparents, too. At home, sweet treats are limited, toys are purchased on occasion, and donuts for breakfast are not the norm. While I may be cringing at the sugar-induced coma that my kids will be in when they return home, they feel a closeness to their grandparents for allowing them to have a few extra treats. They feel like they share a secret - which really isn’t a secret - with their grandparents and it goes a long way to strengthening their bond. That, to me, is worth allowing a few extra treats from their grandparents on occasion.
Set limits. All of these things can help build the grandparent-grandchild bond, but if you are not comfortable with what is going on, it will end up creating anger, resentment, and hurting the relationship between the grandchildren and their grandparents in the long run. Set limits that everyone understands and can live with. For example, it is okay for grandparents to break the rules and let the kids have ice cream for dinner, but it is not okay for them to ride in the car without a car seat. Make sure that your children and the grandparents know what your unbreakable rules are so that everyone is on the same page.
Grandparents are important because they have much life experience and love to share that wisdom with their grandchildren. They have the opportunity to share their love and time without the pressure parents face today raising their own kids. If your kids are lucky enough to have their grandparents in their lives, foster and encourage them to build their relationship as much as possible. Your kids will cherish the memories for a lifetime.
Sarah is a mom of six children, including triplets.
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