As a grandparent, having grandchildren is life-changing, but do you know that there are boundaries for grandparents to ensure a healthy relationship?
The role of grandparents is essential, which is why boundaries are too. After extensive research, I have found a list of boundaries for grandparents. Want to learn more? Read more to find out.
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Why Do Boundaries Matter as a Grandparent?
According to Becky Stuempfig, a marriage and family therapist (1), “having an extended family around children can be fun; however, tensions rise when the extended family invades the children’s parents’ values.”
These awkward situations can be avoided if there is communication between the parents by introducing boundaries.
It shows trust in their ability to raise their kids. Moreover, you are not likely to break the rules that grandparents set up with the children.
For example, most families have regulations on nap time, meal plans, and time. When you visit or take in your grandchildren, you disrupt their everyday life, and these rules aren’t followed.
This undermines their parents’ rules and sees you as the grandparent who does what they want. Even with positive intentions, this will not go well with your adult children and become toxic.
Top 7 Boundaries for Grandparents
As a parent, you do not want to leave your children with the ‘grandparents overstepping boundaries’ perspective. So here is a list of boundaries for grandparents to observe.
1. Ill-Talks Regarding the Other Grandparents
Chances are your son or daughter is now married and raising their children as they want. Avoid mentioning it if you do not get along with the in-laws, especially grandchildren.
If you do, this can lead to strains in your family relationship. The consequence of such actions can lead to being denied visits or grandchildren who are uninterested in visiting you.
So look for other ways to engage your grandkids, like sitting them down for a family history narration, playing games, or taking them on special outings.
2. Avoid Criticizing Parents’ Decisions
While you might be a pro in child-raising, know that parenting choices have changed. Modern parenting decisions are different but still effective, so you shouldn’t judge them.
While offering unsolicited advice to new parents can be tempting, avoid that. Even if you have good intentions, it can also get misinterpreted as criticism which causes relational strains.
So, do not break that rule if the parents have limited the child’s sugar intake or set a specific nap time. Neither should you openly criticize the decision in the presence of your grandchild.
3. Avoid Posting Grandchildren on Social Media
While you can get carried away with the moments and post your grandkids online, it can cause a stir in the parents’ lives. Not all parents want their children’s details and faces shown to the world.
It is essential to seek approval first, or if possible, keep the happy moments to yourself. The same goes for announcing you expect a grandchild – it is not your news to share alone.
It is essential to realize that as a grandparent, you are not responsible for making life-changing decisions for your grandchildren; this includes what social media they are on or that you post on.
4. Asking for More Grandkids
After seeing one grandkid, you can get carried away thinking of how joyful having more would be. However, no matter the urge to ask for more grandkids, don’t.
Remember, your adult children have their view on the number of children they want and how the age spacing should be.
In addition, they could have fertility issues that they want to be kept private. Interfering and asking when the next grandchild is coming can be inappropriate.
You do not want to introduce heartaches to the new family, so keep your medical advice on parenting at bay.
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5. Spoiling the Kids Excessively
A grandparent brings joy and support to the parents and grandchildren from time to time. However, some grandparents cross boundaries by spoiling their grandkids too much.
For instance, allowing a grandchild much screen time affects the recommended sleep patterns (2).
The same can apply to expensive gifts, overeating ice cream, junk food, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
While you can see this as a means of having fun and winning your grandchild’s affection, the parents can think otherwise.
Always align with the parents’ rules, and ask beforehand about their view on treats and gifts to promote that healthy relationship.
6. Prioritizing Particular Grandchildren Over the Others
Children are born with different abilities and talents, contributing to different growth personalities.
While you can feel the need to have a special relationship with your favorite grandkid, it is best not to show this trait.
If you get invited to your grandchildren’s dance recitals or special events, quit showing or announcing the weaknesses of each.
You can make the other child feel unwanted or unloved due to their lack of excelling in a particular field.
While you can say this unknowingly, the children are quick to hear and remember your words.
Remember, words are powerful and can make you lose the chance to spend precious time (3) with the children, so avoid possessive phrases.
7. Enforcing Your Parental Authority
As is a norm in various family dynamic settings, the grandparents usually have a say in the child’s life. This family culture can include choosing the baby’s name and outfits, among other factors.
However, it is best to give your grandchild’s parents the space to decide what is suitable for the baby. If you feel the parents should name the child after a particular one, don’t pressure them.
That also applies to stressing that your grandchild wears that particular outfit you got them for a special day. If your adult children need your advice, they will ask; if they don’t, let them be.
What is a Toxic Grandparent Anyways?
While the list of boundaries with grandparents can seem obvious, it is essential to assess whether you are a toxic grandparent or not.
Here are some telltale signs you are one but don’t know and how to avoid the character.
Signs of a Toxic Grandparent
- You play the victim when the grandchild’s parents’ decision does not favor your desires.
- You show blatant disrespect to the grandchild’s parent’s parenting rules.
- You tend to show favoritism toward a particular grandchild or grandchildren.
- You constantly cross the boundary and meddle with your grandchildren’s family affairs.
- You always complain about how bad the parents are raising your grandchild.
- You always want to give unsolicited parenting advice.
- You ignore the parents each time you want to talk to the children.
How to Avoid Being a Toxic Grandparent
- Assume the unique role of grandparents and be there to support and encourage the parents.
- Keep the communication open and be open-minded to follow the new parents’ parenting styles.
- Keep your requests simple and avoid asking complicated questions.
- Encourage good behavior and quit meddling in the parent’s disciplinary methods unless you sense child abuse.
- Avoid assuming the false roles of parenting by showing the grandchildren that their parents cannot raise them well.
- Accept the different qualities the two types of grandparents have and live with them or patch things up.
- Avoid unnecessary quarrels, share parenting skills, and offer unsolicited parenting classes.
How often should grandparents see their grandchildren?
This depends on the family in question since different families hold unique views. If the parents are comfortable letting your grandkids see you often, sounds good; if not, do not insist.
What is the role of grandparents in the life of their grandchildren?
Grandparents play a significant role in their grandchildren’s life by babysitting, storytelling, and role models. Moreover, children feel loved and wanted by having many affectionate people around.
Is the boundary-setting conversation between parents and grandparents viable?
While this can appear to be a difficult conversation, it is essential to have this discussion. It helps the two parenting parties understand each other and straighten the decisions on child-rearing.
How can I enforce and cultivate positive relationships with my grandchildren’s parents?
Stand on common ground with them, whether their parenting methods seem right to you or not, and avoid clashing with their parental values.
The need to set boundaries for grandparents is inevitable for all families for healthy and functional families.
The above showed the seven boundaries with grandparents, and tips on avoiding toxicity. So now you can implement them to avoid any strife in your family.
- 1. Becky Bernard Stuempfig | Therapy Services | Encinitas, CA 92024 [Internet]. Becky Bernard Stuempfig. [cited 2022 Jul 8]. Available from: https://encinitastherapy.com/
- 2. Do Your Children Get Enough Sleep? [Internet]. 2020. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/children-sleep.htm
- 3. Anderson K. Parents, Grandparents Disagree on How to Raise Grandkids [Internet]. AARP. [cited 2022 Jul 8]. Available from: https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2020/parents-grandparents-disagree-poll.html