“Can Grandma and Grandpa come over?”

Grandparents can be very special to a child. In a good relationship, they offer unconditional love and acceptance. They often pay undivided attention and listen with interest to all their grandchild has to tell. Many grandparents are flexible—they have free time and their own lives are fairly settled. Since they don’t have day-to-day responsibility for their grandchild, they can get involved without worrying about such tough issues as discipline and education.

Good grandparent-grandchild relationships usually revolve around the child’s interests, although children sometimes will listen carefully to their grandparents’ stories (“We didn’t have computers and videos when I was your age,”) and may enjoy participating in a grandparent’s hobby. Still, the focus is on the child. During the preschool years, most children are happy to stay near their grandparents during a visit. By the early elementary years, kids are involved in many activities and are often busy when grandparents are around. The relationship changes. Grandparents of a six- to nine-year-old may spend less time directly involved with their grandchild and more time watching his soccer games, class plays, or recitals.

Parents find themselves in the middle of the grandparent-grandchild relationship. In the best situations, parents love to share their child’s accomplishments with grandparents and hear them say wonderful things back. It’s especially gratifying when grandparents compliment parents for successful child-rearing. But the relationship can be complex and uncomfortable, especially for the generation in the middle.

When grandparents criticize the way their grandchild is being raised, parents resent the intrusion. If grandparents are especially loving towards their grandchild, a parent may angrily or jealously wonder why she didn’t experience such acceptance when she was young: “Why are they so nice now? They were never like that when I was growing up.” At the other extreme, if grandparents aren’t loving enough, parents mourn the loss of a relationship they wanted for their child.

By the time a child is in elementary school, he knows a great deal about his grandparents. He knows how they react to him, how likely they are to pay attention and play with him, and what their personalities are like. A grandchild sometimes sees the same characteristics that his parents once saw. And he, like his parents, may be bothered: “Grandpa thinks he knows everything.” Parents can commiserate: “You know, when I was growing up I sometimes felt the same way about Grandpa. I think it’s his way of giving advice and helping out.” Parents usually find that their child is more tolerant of a grandparent’s idiosyncrasies than they are.

If your child’s grandparents are intent on seeing and enjoying him, the relationship will flourish. If they are emotionally or geographically distant, there are some things you can do to encourage the relationship.

When grandparents live far away, remain in contact via telephone or email. Exchange audio tapes describing recent activities or send videotapes of your child playing, singing, showing off his room, or telling a story. You can help your child write to his grandparents by giving him several addressed, stamped envelopes ready to send off with a letter, photo, or drawing.

If you’ve kept grandparents at a distance because of their attitudes or actions, reconsider now that your child is older. One parent who thought her mother overindulged the grandchildren as preschoolers saw that the leniency and generosity didn’t harm them or make them greedy. She began to invite her mother over more often.

If you sense that your child is bothered or worried about his grandparents, let him talk about his feelings. If his grandmother is sick or if there’s a sudden change in her health or living situation, he will ask lots of questions and seek reassurance: “Will Grandma be all right?” “Will she always be sad now?” “Will we still get to see her?”

The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren can enrich both generations. When it works, it’s wonderful. When it doesn’t develop as you would wish, there still will be benefits. As the parent in-between, try to accept whatever disappointment you feel and nurture the good parts of the relationship.

Picture Credit : Google