Grandparents play a significant role in a lot of people’s childhoods. In general, people look back and see how their grandparents were always there for them, ready to play whatever game they wanted or buy them some candy or toy that their parents wouldn’t.
Children adore their grandparents. But things change when they have their own children, and their parents become the grandparents. Their role in the family can become a source of conflict, and may even cause more harm than good.
“Surely, two of the most satisfying experiences in life must be those of being a grandchild or a grandparent.”
-Donald A. Norberg-
Changing roles can cause conflict
We’ve all heard people say that parents raise and grandparents spoil. Grandparents tend to be less strict than parents and more tolerant of the child’s “bad” behavior.
It’s common for parents to think that their own parents are raising their grandchildren differently, which can cause conflict if they feel like their authority is being questioned.
“We often feel closer to distant generations than to the generation immediately preceding us.”
While having involved grandparents doesn’t mean children will necessarily disobey their parents, it’s important for parents to clearly and openly communicate the values and norms that will be the backbone of the child’s upbringing.
The role of grandparents as mediators
If parents and grandparents can view each other as allies instead of opponents, the children and their development will benefit immensely.
For one thing, grandparents can act as mediators in conflicts between parents and children. If they’re able to take an objective position between the parent and the child, they can help find a solution that will be beneficial to all.
Not only can they use their role to facilitate communication, but they can also give a calm, unbiased perspective on the problem. They can offer alternative solutions and ensure that both the parent and the child get something out of it.
“What children need most are the essentials that grandparents provide in abundance. They give unconditional love, kindness, patience, humor, comfort, lessons in life. And, most importantly, cookies.”
The role of grandparents as emotional support
But the role of grandparents in the family goes much further than conflict resolution. Their special emotional support is undeniable, for both their own children and the grandchildren, especially when their children are embarking on the adventure of parenthood. After all, raising children is not an easy job.
Their experience and advice can be a huge help. In order for them to offer the right kind of support, the relationship must be based on listening, understanding, and empathy. They will respect their children’s parenting styles, and both can give and receive from each other.
Grandparents are a fountain of irreplaceable love and affection. They also help children learn about who they are by telling stories about the family. Grandparents are a treasure!
Images courtesy of O.C. González, Lindy Baker and Gemma Evans.