Parenting: How to cope with grandparent headaches

July 31, 2012

What can you do to smooth the way and ease the problems, so your kids have a fun time and a positive memory of their grandmoms and granddads? Here are ways to deal with seven typical troubles that families face with grandparents.

1. Do the grandparents live far away? Send them a plane ticket since that's usually cheaper than flying your whole family to see them. You can drive and meet in the middle at a park or restaurant. Also try skyping in between visits.

2. Do they want to spend every holiday with you? Instead of trying to rush to everyone's house in one day for Thanksgiving, Christmas or Easter, try celebrating on three different days. Do a Thanksgiving Eve dinner and a leftovers party on Black Friday. Decide at the beginning of each year what holidays you will celebrate with which family members and try to be fair. Save a few for your nuclear family and again, try to have grandparents come to you.

3. If the grandparents are a different religion than you're raising your kids, work together to find a happy medium. Indulge your parents by letting the kids go to Christmas Eve mass even if you're raising them Jewish. Invite them to come to your church's service and include them in home rituals. Give the grandparents literature about your religion and hopefully you'll cultivate respect.

4. If the grandparents want to babysit all the time, try making a schedule with them as much as you are comfortable. Once a month instead of once a week. Tell relatives how much you appreciate their willingness to help. Explain that you need time to bond with your baby, or you haven't had enough one-on-one time lately with your older son.

5. If you have the opposite problem and the grandparents never want to babysit, it can be just as hard. Suggest they have some one-on-one time with your child while you're upstairs working, exercising, cleaning out a closet or organizing a photo album. That way you're nearby if the grandparent is nervous about caring for your child. The next time, suggest the grandparent take the child for ice cream or on a short outing to the park. Or you could suggest leaving to run an errand or two. Create the time for grandparent bonding slowly. Tell your parents or in-laws how special it is and how much you appreciate it.

6. If the grandparents drink, smoke, eat junk food or have other habits you don't like, decide what you can overlook and what you can't. Tell them the pediatrician is to blame and talk about the health risks the habit can have on the child. Post a no-drinking, no-smoking rule for all caregivers to see, that way they'll know the same applies to babysitters and nannies. If food is the problem, prepare healthy foods ahead of time for your child. Ask the grandparent to eat junk food when the child is sleeping or in limited amounts. Tell your child the sweets or salty foods are a treat, not a regular habit.

7. If grandparents spoil the kids with too many gifts, set a few rules and then mostly let this one go. Certainly tell the kids and grandparents no toy guns are allowed and not too much candy before bedtime. Also call or send them a note to coordinate big toys, so that you don't duplicate ride-on cars or expensive dolls. Don't get upset if the first bike comes from grandpa and the child's memory is one of being loved and doted on. Kids aren't likely to be spoiled rotten by just their grandparents. It's usually when the grandparents, parents and friends all pile on the loot that it sends a "brat" message.

For more ideas, go to What To Expect

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