Role of Grandparents

In nuclear family set up, grandparents are ignored. Parents feel that grandparents presence will be a interference in raising of the kids. But there are more advantages than disadvantages of having grandparents in the family. Read on to know how.

"Quarrels would not last long, if the fault was only on one side."

Role of Grandparents

With the ever-increasing number of nuclear families where both partners are working, maids are given the job of literally raising the children. Important developmental tasks like socialization, disciplining and language development are left to the television or this housemaid. 

5 While parents know this is not in the best interests of their children, they still accept it because it does not afford any interference in their routine life. The parents [especially the mother] experience full liberty and authority towards the growing child and the entire family administration at the meager cost of monthly salary of the maid. The advantages of having the company of grandparents are ignored, because parents don't want anyone bossing them around or teaching them how to raise their own children, and rightly so. 

The mother has no intention of humiliating either the husband or the grandparents. All she wants is parenting without criticism and she wants to avoid being unnecessarily blamed by all for any misbehavior by the child.

However, there are more advantages than disadvantages of having grandparents in the family. It all depends on everybody's personalities, expectations, contributions, and communication styles. Often parents and grandparents get into a situation where they are competing at 'parenting'. The smaller issues like disciplining, menu for lunch, T.V. watching, birthday gifts, dressing styles, doing chores etc. soon become the topics of disputes. The previous confrontations are remembered and bounced back and conflicts set in.

Many times, the father and grandfather keep out of trouble, only to listen to the grumbling of their wives who no longer get along. The children are smart enough to take the advantage of the situation for their own benefit. What should be done to avoid such situations? Can those broken families be brought together again? Is it possible for the father to give instructions to his parents? Are we following the western style of 'homes for the aged? Is that our own destiny when we become old? This article aims at giving both sides of the story.

Strategies for parents:

Avoid shouting or talking back at grandparents. Even if there is a dispute, discuss it when children are not around. Remember children may not be good listeners but they are very good observers. 

Lay down certain ground rules which should be followed by everybody - including the grandparents, e.g. T.V. watching. Let the rules be discussed with all prior to implementation.

If you feel that you are being unfairly blamed and criticized, you should discuss it immediately. If you sense interference, double game, taking sides etc. on the part of grandparents, be bold enough to openly discuss it. Let the steam blow off early. 

Convey your expectations very clearly to each member of the family. Let everybody know what he/she is supposed to do.

Praise the grandparents if you think they have done a good job, or if they have helped you. Never expect too much from them. Consider the age-related restrictions. Avoid criticism and bad remarks. It really hurts at their age.

Give responsibilities to the grandparents when you are away. Let them feel that they also count. Make use of their experience and wisdom instead of making 'use' of them. To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved. 

Arrange for regular family meetings and get-togethers. Having at least one family meal together is a very important step towards healthy family relationships.

Feel comfortable to take advices from grandparents regarding important issues, e.g. disciplining, career choices, financial matters, family rituals etc.

What you do to the grandparents probably will be repeated few years later by your children. Be a good role model before you expect good treatment from your children, when you become old.

Be prepared to face not-so-good relationships in the future. The times are changing. Do not expect the same amount of affection and intimacy from today's children, which you are showing towards today's grandparents.

Strategies for grandparents:

Remember the basic rule: You are not parents. Never interfere with sensitive issues like discipline and studies, unless asked for. Avoid taking sides, especially in front of the children. 

Never humiliate/criticize parents in front of their children. Whatever you want to advise should be in private. Do not use children as means of fighting with parents. Family conflicts and raising children should be separate. Never use phrases like, 'if it was me...' or 'In my time...' or 'When you were a kid...' or 'When your become old as me, you would be worse than what I am.'etc.  The demands for parenting and what constitutes parenting is constantly changing. 

What was rational yesterday may not be valid today and will never be applicable tomorrow.

Give positive remarks, when you feel that the parents have done a good job. Be quick to compliment, and slow to blame. 

Try to compensate for working parents when they are away. Try to cushion the stress and demands of modern day parenting. Take initiatives and responsibilities during crisis without dominating the show. Your task of parenting continues even when you are grandparents. Give your comfortable lap not only to grandchildren but also to the parents, when needed. After all, you are the pillars of the family. Pillars are for supporting, not for creating obstacles.

Children, especially adolescents, may rebel. Do not feel humiliated in that case. 

Discuss the steps that should be taken, in case you sense danger. Use humor whenever possible. Family rituals and gatherings offer the best platform for discussing and negotiating issues, which need delicate handling. Try to inculcate family norms and values into your growing grandchildren and give proper explanations each time you do so. 

Accept your own limitations as grandparents without taking things personally. 

Old age is not so bad when you consider the alternatives. Share your physical as well as mental problems with family members. Be bold to resist being 'used up'.

Avoid constant criticism. It gives a message that nobody except you is capable of running the family. The parents may feel hopeless and inferior if you constantly pass negative remarks. Children also lose respect towards the parents. 

Give priority to parent's concerns over your grandchildrens' demands. Listen to both sides in case of disputes and find a mutually agreeable solution, thus acting as a buffer.

Take vacations for short periods. Let family members feel that you are needed.

Help the parents and grandchildren in whatever way you can with your experience and knowledge. Staying away from the kitchen and avoiding constant interference can be a great help by itself.

Whatever the causes of disputes between elders, they should never be discussed outside the home. They should be resolved quickly and forgotten - not thrashed about again and again.