When your parents agree to watch your children, this is a convenient arrangement in every respect, but in order for it to work best for all parties, it is important to have some basic rules so that your parents don’t feel like substitute parents or like they are “working for you.” If you stop asking for their help and start demanding it, if you want them to follow all your rules, and if you involve your partner in arguments between you and your parents, you should reconsider your behavior and read the following tips for maintaining a relationship with grandparents who care for their grandkids.
1. Don’t take your parents for granted
Within our family unit, we tend to forget that those around us are people with needs and limitations of their own, just like us. This is even truer when our parents become caregivers to our children. Although grandchildren sometimes seem to be a source of happiness and enjoyable pastime for your parents, remember that they have other interests. Don’t assume that your parents are always available for you or want to help all the time. Ask for help and don’t demand it, and know when you should hold back and not burden them, even considering their age limitations.
If your parents took care of your children all week, you might want to reconsider asking them to babysit Saturday night. Despite the grinding routine, it must be remembered that our parents also need their own free time, a listening ear and someone who would like to spend time with them talking about things that concern them. Look for shared time with your parents where you can recharge them with energy and build up your relationship.
2. Be a little laxer on your rules
Every parent has rules and methods when raising their children; some don’t want their children to watch television, some don’t want them eating candy, and some schedule tutors immediately after the kids come home from school. Whatever your rules are, when your children are under your parents care for a long time, you may need to be a bit more flexible with your rules.
Keep in mind that your parents can’t meet all your conditions and expectations and might even choose to break your rules, whether it’s because that’s what they’re used to, or maybe because they want to spoil and treat their grandkids. As long as your parents do not do something that compromises your child’s physical and mental well-being, think your rules over, and decide which one you can be more flexible with, and which ones you aren’t budging on.
3. Offer payment for special expenses
Even if in most cases your parents won’t ask for compensation for taking care of your children, remember that they have additional expenses on the days they take care of and spend time with your little ones. If grandparents take the grandchildren for a meal at a restaurant, for a day at the mall, or to the zoo, the experience usually involves quite a bit of an expense. Offer to pay them back, or even leave some money with them beforehand. Even if the offer is rejected by your parents, be sure to offer them money from time to time to show them that their help isn’t expected or taken for granted.
4. Say thank you and buy them a gift
Your parents don’t take care of their grandchildren in order to receive a gift. They do so for a variety of reasons related to helping you and just loving and wanting to spend time with their family. Despite all this, all of us, old and young, need recognition and reinforcement. Thank your parents and don’t take their help for granted, even if they’re guilty of doing so themselves. Buy them a nice gift and write a thank you card to remind them of your appreciation of their dedication and help. In order to repay your parents in another way, try to help them in areas where they have difficulty as in small renovations or house maintenance.
5. Don’t involve your partner in arguments with your parents
It is natural and common for you to have occasional disagreements with your parents about issues related to the care and education of your kids, and it’s even recommended that you have an open conversation with them about the issues that concern you, but be sure to do so without involving your partner. Your parents may feel uncomfortable or even attacked, in the presence of a more distant person like your spouse, even if they like and get along with them. If you can’t overcome the problem alone, you can lean on your partner for support, but first, try to talk to your parents privately and remember that they have only good intentions for you and their grandchildren.
6. Encourage your child to respect your parents
Do you come across situations where your children are cheeky to your parents? Do they demand instead of ask, treat your parents with contempt and perhaps maybe even curse them out? Just before you scold them, ask yourself whether your children are just copying the nature of the relationship they have seen between you and your parents. Remember that personal example is the main way children learn about relationships.
Beyond setting a personal example, make sure to praise and thank your parents in front of your children; you can tell them for example how Grandpa once managed to fix the car during a family trip or how Grandma sewed you the most beautiful costume in school. Beyond that, it is important that you teach your child how to deal respectably with arguments and disagreements in general, and with their grandparents in particular.
7. Clean up after yourself
After a whole day in the company of children, everyone’s house looks completely different – toys everywhere, puzzles scattered all over the floor, half-eaten candy and dirty dishes all over the place. It may be that in your home this doesn’t really bother you, but when your children spend time with your parents, it isn’t fair to leave their home messy. Make sure that the kids clean up the mess they made, and do it yourself if your child is too young to do It themselves.
8. Make your home accessible to parents
Technology has become a part of our lives whether we like it or not. Even those who are deterred by innovations have to adapt to a new era and can even finally discover that they like the new possibilities. Many of our parents have a smartphone and a Facebook account and get along very well.
However, it is worth remembering that each device and software has its own complex operating system. When your parents come to your home to watch your children, let them feel comfortable and give them access to all the tools you have in your home. Be sure to explain to your parents how to operate all electronic devices putting special emphasis on the TV, computer, microwave and other appliances that they will most likely want to use.
9. Don’t have your parents cook and clean
You may never have asked your parents to fold your laundry or cook dinner. They just see a pile of clothes on the sofa in the living room and fold it on their own. But what starts out as a small initiative can become an abysmal routine in which most household chores, including cleaning, cooking, children’s showers and even homework help, are done by your parents. In some cases, your parents also drive your kids to afterschool activities.
You may think that your parents are just doing these things to kill time, but no one actually wants to do these menial tasks, especially considering that your parents have to clean up their own home. Just let your parents know that that isn’t something they have to do, and to just enjoy the time with their grandchildren.
Once your kids get older and you no longer need your parents to watch them, they’ll be teenagers managing their own schedules. In order to maintain the relationship between them and keep it deep, mutual and ongoing, make sure that it isn’t based solely on supervision and fulfillment of tasks.
Encourage your children to get off their phones and talk to their grandparents, take an interest in them, discover more of their life story and family heritage. On the other hand, encourage your parents to play with their grandchildren and open up to them not only as grandparents but as human beings. You will find that even when your children grow up and get older, they’ll still want to visit their grandparents and the bond between them will accompany them for the rest of their lives.