A strong relationship between your children and their grandparents can either be a great source of enjoyment or a source of friction. The biggest link to this will be your own relationship with your parents. Will they be supportive if they do not support your decision? Are they the sort of grandparents who will play on the carpet with your child or sit waiting for someone to make them a cup of tea?
The relationship they have will depend on how close you live and how often they see each other. With modern technology, this does not need to be the barrier it once was. It is also dependent on your child’s attitude. They will develop signs from you. If, for instance, you say ‘I am afraid we are going for lunch at your grandparents’, you are already signaling it as negative. Promoting a healthy relationship with grandparents always demark the positives. For example, ‘we are going to your grandparents this evening, they would love to hear about your day’.
The Advantages of a Strong Relationship With Grandparents
Having a strong relationship with grandparents is great for all involved. It gives your children another set of adults they feel that they can turn to if needed. This could be a real strength if there are issues that they want a second opinion on or a sounding board. The detachment that your parents may have from the day-to-day issues at school gives them a good position to act as a sounding board. It also gives another person to share interests with. For example woodworking or cooking. When my children go to my parents, my parents will spend hours doing these activities with them. It makes my children feel special and they learn skills that I would not teach them. This time also gives them the opportunity to talk.
These relationships are not one-way. The reason my parents are happy to spend time with my children is they also enjoy their company. For my children, it is a safe place where they can ‘sloth out’ and be themselves. They are more relaxed there than in many other places. They can watch lots of TV and the food is always good. Unconditional love, trust and patience are hard to replace.
How to Develop a Strong Relationship
Visit often. When grandparents live in a different town or state planning a trip to visit them can fill your child with anticipation and excitement. In forming a strong relationship with grandparents, nothing can really replace the feeling of ‘presence’. Even if the visits are infrequent they will help your child view the time spent together with their grandparents as special. If they are local, dropping in for a cup of tea or biscuit. This can be regular, for instance, every Tuesday, or ad-hoc meals. When there make sure that it is enjoyable, for instance playing a game where your children and parents are equals. For example Pictionary.
Use technology. There are so many options available! Zoom, Facetime, email, texting, Instagram, etc., all of which can facilitate staying in contact. Grandparents can record themselves reading a bedtime story to share with their grandchildren. Grandchildren can send personalized messages and photos. Both with the same result of keeping in contact and staying close. Family WhatsApp groups are also fantastic for keeping everyone involved in the day-to-day lives of the children. For instance, many families may have a group to share a common interest in sports or a TV show.
Teach Skills. Whether it is fishing or sewing many grandparents have a hobby or skill they would love to pass on to their grandchildren. This teaching can be done in person or using technology. Make sure your children have the necessary tools and materials to learn from their grandparents.
Climb the Family Tree. Children of all ages enjoy learning about their family history. Ask grandparents to share family stories and ancestry. Perhaps they can help your children draw a family tree.
Final Thoughts on Grandparent Relationships
We have posted before about the issues with difficult grandparents. There are many reasons why we might not feel comfortable with our own parents. There is no doubt that there are positives and negatives that we have taken from our relationships with them. With our own children it is great opportunity for us to rebuild those on a new axis. Rather than see them as competition, it is best to see it as increasing the network of meaingful relationships they have.