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 strengthen the bond between you and your grandchildren.
Spend 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 all go to breakfast or every Tuesday you 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 you to follow-up on things the next week. If you are struggling with things to talk about with your grandchild, send their parents a quick text asking them for some ideas for talking points. Maybe they had a big math test, a soccer game, or a playdate with a friend. A little extra effort on the part of both the parent and grandparent can help strengthen the bond between grandkids and grandparents, even 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. In most situations, parents should be responsible for any discipline needed. This allows grandparents to enjoy the fun aspects of time with the grandkids. When bringing up the subject, be kind and patient and explain that you don’t want anything to come between you and the grandkids and affect the special relationship you have. If discipline must be handled by the grandparents, try to stay as close to the parents' disciplinary style as possible or delay the discussion for when the parents return.
Spoil them a little
Grandparents love to spoil their grandkids with treats, gifts, and love. Check in with the parents and make sure they are comfortable with any treats and gifts you may give. When everyone is on the same page, your child can feel loved, spoiled, and accepted by both their parents and grandparents. 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 – very importantly!) 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. When presented this way, most parents and grandparents can come to a compromise everyone is happy with.
All of 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 possibly damaging 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 the child, the parent, and the grandparents know what the family’s 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. Kids who have grandparents in their lives can count themselves lucky, foster and build this relationship as much as possible. Your grandkids will cherish the memories for their lifetime, and so will you.
Sarah is a mom of six children, including triplets. She was blessed to have four living grandparents in her life until she was in her forties and appreciates the role her parents and in-laws play in the lives of her children.
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