One of the pros of raising a child in India is the help, support and advice that you get from your friends and family. One of the cons of raising a child in India is the help, support and advice you get from your friends and family! And there is nobody more supportive or involved than your child’s grandparents. Whether they are yours or your spouse’s parents, most Indian grandparents are part of their grandchildren’s lives from the moment they are born.
Some of my fondest and most vivid memories of my childhood are those spent with my grandparents. My children have had the privilege of either living with their grandparents or staying right next door to them. This has provided them with opportunities to create very strong, emotional connections and memories that will last a lifetime.
There is no doubt that the bond between the grandparent and the grandchild is unique and special. But, tensions can arise when the grandparents take on more of a parenting role and navigating the resultant choppy, parenting waters can be a hard and frustrating task. There are a few things to keep in mind as you attempt to maintain that delicate balance of parenting versus grandparenting.
Communicate your parenting style
Acknowledge that both you and your spouse are alive and functioning as adults in a society. Clearly, they have done something right. Both sets of parents have raised you to be thinking individuals who are now raising their own thinking individual. So, whatever else you disagree on, at least accept that bare fact. Having acknowledged that they have base level parenting skills, start by being on the same page as your spouse. Communicate and discuss your parenting philosophies and values. If you don’t want the grandparents being involved in parenting decisions, you need to present a united front. This is especially important when telling your spouse’s parents. Work out your differences, arrive at a compromise and then share that with the grandparents. If you plan on sleep training, then both of you need to agree to it. Otherwise, you will find yourself defending your stance all the time. Show them that you’re in agreement on how you plan to raise your child.
Set polite boundaries
There will be a difference between grandparents who visit vis a vis grandparents who live with you. Consider bending the rules a little bit for grandparents who visit. As long as it doesn’t completely override your parenting philosophies, an extra treat during a grandparent’s visit is not a bad thing. Of course, if the grandparents live with you, then getting treats every day will affect your parenting rules or philosophy. Set your boundaries politely but firmly. If grandparents are also caregiving your child and you would like things done a certain way, then take the time to explain why and the thought process behind it. Patient but clear explanations often help get them on board. If explanations don’t work, defer to the relevant authority figure in your life – either the doctor or the teacher. If necessary, you can take them along to the next paediatrician’s appointment, so they can hear it directly from the horse’s mouth.
Be open to advice
Not all advice is bad. Listen to what they have to say and choose what works for you. By shutting out their advice, you may actually end up losing out on some genuine nuggets of wisdom. So, keep an open mind when being offered advice. Try not to take advice personally. It’s easier said than done, I’ll admit. But, it is something to remember. They are entitled to their opinion as are you. Just because they would handle a situation differently doesn’t mean that either of you are wrong. It’s easy to get defensive when someone points out a flaw in your parenting. Try and take the emotion out of it and consider what they are saying and if it’s relevant to your situation.
Get them involved
Grandparents want to be involved but may not always know how. Play to their strengths. A grandparent who cooks will enjoy cooking meals for their grandchildren. A senior who’s hesitant around babies may prefer to sit and play on the floor when they are a bit older. A grandparent who enjoys craft activities can share their passions with their grandchildren. Help them identify ways in which they can connect to their grandchildren without having to parent.
Respect their needs and abilities
Keep in mind that grandparents are not obligated to look after your children. They will not have the same energy levels or inclination and that’s okay. If they live with you, it is not their job to help you look after your kids. Do not abdicate your role of a parent just because you have a grandparent in the picture. Allow them the joys of grandparenting. Let the hard task of parenting fall on you. Be thankful of any additional help that comes your way.
Choose your battles wisely
Try and remember that this is not a power struggle between you, the parent and the grandparent. Both of you come from a place of love and affection for your child. Decide your negotiable and non-negotiables rules. Stay strong on your non-negotiables. But find room for compromise on the negotiables. Maintaining a balance is key in providing a happy, loving, secure environment for your child.