By Sarah Lyons
Growing up I had a close relationship with my grandparents and have wonderful memories of our time together. My grandma loved to teach me about plants, to play card games, and to cook together. My grandpa took me camping, fishing, and was always sneaking us extra dessert. Grandparents and their grandchildren have a special bond. This 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 to bond naturally. This will look different for each family, but some ideas could include cooking together, running errands, attending the 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 have time with their grandchildren. For example, every Saturday morning you go to breakfast or every Tuesday they babysit while the parents have a date night. If you do not live in the same city, try using a phone or video call at a set time each week. The nice thing about weekly calls is that it allows for following up on the things the next week. Giving your child talking points can help the conversation flow better. If you know your parent is struggling with things to talk about with your child, send them a quick text reminding them to ask about the big math test or how the playdate went. These are some good examples of ways parents can facilitate the bond between their grandparents from a long distance.
Let the parents handle discipline
A common source of conflict between parents and grandparents can be discipline of children. Grandparents may have different disciplinary styles or feel different behaviors deserve reprimanding. Let grandparents know that, in most situations, you will be responsible for any discipline needed. This allows grandparents to enjoy the fun aspects of time with the kids. When bringing up the subject, be kind and patient and explain that you don’t want anything to come between the kids and their grandparents and the special relationship they have. If discipline must be handled by the grandparent, they should try to stay as close to the parents disciplinary style as possible or delay punishment for when the parents 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 the next morning. They can also count on any number of sweet treats while they are visiting. When their birthday comes around, they usually get spoiled by gifts from their grandparents as well. 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 come back home, the kids feel a closeness to their grandparents for allowing them to have a few extra treats. They feel like they share a secret, that really isn’t a secret at all, 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.
All these things can help build the grandparent-grandchild bond but if the parents are not comfortable with what is going on, it will end up creating anger, resentment, and end up 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 child and the grandparents know what your unbreakable rules are so that everyone is on the same page.
Grandparents are important because they have life experience and love to share them with their grandchildren. They have the opportunity to share their love and time without the pressures parents face in raising children. If your kids are lucky enough to have grandparents in their lives, foster and encourage them to build their relationship as much as possible. Your kids will cherish the memories for their lifetime.
Sarah Lyons is a wife and stay at home mom of six children, including seven year old triplets. She writes from her home in Kansas City.
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