Picture this scenario. You go visiting your son or daughter who has kids, and you have a wonderful time with your grandchildren. Time seems to fly away, and before you realize it, the mom announces that it’s nap time. Why now? You think. In such a scenario, most of them fall into the trap of undermining the parent’s authority by trying to postpone the nap time, which is overstepping boundaries for grandparents.
Everyone understands the bond and the chemistry between grandparents and their grandchildren. However, respect for boundaries set by the family can help build a good relationship between you and your daughter’s or son’s family. For children, the thought of having to put and spell out boundaries to their parents may seem improper and may cause them a lot of emotional distress.
To save them from the awkward situation of having to spell out boundaries to you, it is vital that you clearly understand your limits as a grandparent and avoid overstepping them. In case you are unsure of your limits, this post attempts to highlight a list of boundaries for grandparents that are commonly exceeded and how to avoid them.
Top 5 Boundaries for Grandparents
1. Going Overboard With Giving
Grandparents have an exclusive right to spoil their grandchildren with gifts from time to time. However, this right must never be abused. Sometimes grandparents will try and use gifts to buy their way into their grandchildren’s hearts by quickly giving in to their grandchildren’s requests.
You may not realize that you are doing anything wrong. However, your grandchild’s parents may interpret it as a lack of respect for the set rules and an attempt to paint them as bad parents. If your grandchildren make requests, it would be best if you asked the parents in the hearing of your grandchildren if it was okay to allow their request or not. This way, you will be making it clear to your grandchildren that their parents are responsible for making decisions in the home.
2. Undermining The Parent’s Authority
Yes, you are the parent to your grandchildren’s parents, but they are not children anymore. They have their own home and their own set of rules for running their home that everyone should follow in the family, and that includes you.
Some homes will have rules around nap time, meal times, internet use, discipline, or tv watching. Resist the attempt to let your grandkids violate any of the rules, no matter how absurd they may seem to you.
Avoid interfering when the parents enforce discipline to their kids, even when you feel it’s unfair. You may intervene only when it’s a case of child abuse. Interference and undermining the parent’s authority can be interpreted as blatant disrespect and may strain your relationship with your children and especially their partners if they have one.
3. Implying Parental Inadequacy
By overindulging, undermining authority, and interfering, you send a message to your grandchildren implying that their parents lack the ability and goodwill to raise them, leading to disobedience, resentment, and a strain on the family fabric.
Even when your actions are not intended to cause harm, they can be misinterpreted and become the source of family problems. When interacting with your grandchildren, always ensure that you show confidence in their parents by speech and deed. By all means, never criticize the parents parenting style or actions in front of the kids.
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4. Posting Your Grandkids Online Without Consent
It may seem like a trivial thing to post photos of you and your grandchildren on social media, and it’s understandable-you want everyone to see how adorable your grandkids are. But some parents may have a different opinion. Before posting your grandchild’s photo online, it would be best to know their parents’ stand on the same. Some parents have a policy of never sharing their children’s photos or information online, which should be respected.
5. Bad Mouthing Other Family Members
If your children are married, their grandchildren will have two sets of grandparents and relatives. You may not like their other grandparents for some reason, or maybe you are just jealous. Speaking ill of other relatives to your grandchildren may not go down well with their parents and may strain your relationship with them.
They may even stop letting you around their children alone. No matter what you feel about their other grandparents or relatives, please keep it to yourself. If you spend yourself idling with your grandkids, you should consider involving them in useful crafts or engaging them in sit-down games.
Frequently Asked Questions
How often should I visit my grandchildren?
Every family is different and may approach this question differently. Under normal circumstances, the length and the frequency of grandparents’ visits largely depend on the parent’s comfort levels at having visitors around.
However, it may not be easy for your children to spell out how your visits affect them, so it would be best to show respect for family privacy by not overdoing it. But when they invite you, it is okay to visit as frequently as they wish as long as your program allows it, especially if you live close to them. During such visits, you should consider buying a unique gift for them if the finances allow, or attending outdoor events together.
How do I know if I am a toxic grandparent?
Many toxic grandparents do not realize that they are. They view their behavior as helpful, while it does more harm than good in an absolute sense. If you constantly find yourself overstepping the boundaries listed in this article, you exhibit the qualities of a toxic grandparent.
By being a toxic grandparent, you not only threaten the stability of your children’s family but also stand the risk of being cut off from the lives of your grandchildren. If you think you are a toxic grandparent, you may consider seeking a therapist’s help to iron out your issues.
What is the role of grandparents in the life of their grandchildren?
There is a lot a grandparent can do without overstepping the limits. They can be role models, babysitters, storytellers, playmates and create a link between the past and the future, giving the children a sense of identity and continuity.
Being alive to see and be around your grandchildren is a blessing and an opportunity you do not want to spoil. Many grandparents have strained their relationship with their children, ending up being cut off from their grandchildren’s lives by overstepping their limits, and you don’t want that for yourself.
Look at the list of boundaries for grandparents highlighted in this article as a starting point as you continue to learn of other limits you could have unknowingly overstepped. It is a good idea to apologize to your children if you feel that you have violated your limits as a grandparent at one point or another. Additionally, if you feel like you are a toxic grandparent, it would be best to seek a therapist’s help.