You love your parents, you love your kids, your parents love your kids… but sometimes, despite the pure intentions, that love is expressed in a way that makes your life more difficult. Whether it’s coping with the sugar high after a visit to grandma’s endless cookie jar or the crankiness after spending nap time up with grandpa, it’s important for parents to strike a healthy balance between encouraging quality time while maintaining sanity. Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind.
Include Them On Your Terms
The time your kids spend with your parents and in-laws is precious, so limiting it isn’t the best solution when it gets challenging. It’s important to include grandparents in the grandkids’ lives, but you can do so on your terms. Whether that means inviting the grandparents over for dinner so that you determine the menu, instead of having them host you, or inviting them to a soccer game where you’re sure the timing won’t conflict with bedtime, involving grandparents in routine activities will make them feel welcome without infringing on your needs.
When deciding how exactly to include grandparents, consider their strengths. Do they love to cook? Invite them over to teach the kids to whip up a new dish – not only will they feel valued, you’ll save time preparing dinner that day! Are they early birds? Invite them to walk to kids to school. The more you keep in mind their good intentions and their personal strengths, the more everyone will get out of the quality time together.
Try as you might to tailor together time to everybody’s needs, grandparents may occasionally overstep. In these cases it is important to be firm, while compassionate. Express the problem, as you see it, directly and in as straight forward a manner as possible. Avoid critical statements and if possible, smile. For example, if you’ve asked grandma not to give the kids sugar before bedtime but she has anyway, explain very clearly why that doesn’t work for your family. Try saying something like, “I know you only want to make them happy, but sugar before bed means none of us sleeps well. We are all cranky the next day. Maybe a new toy would get the same message across without the challenging aftermath.” Avoid accusations, and offer practical alternative solutions for best results.
If being direct doesn’t work, try avoiding the circumstances that aren’t working for you. For example, of no matter how much you emphasize the kids’ bedtime, they stay up late at grandma and grandpa’s, don’t let them sleep over on weeknights anymore. Mom and Dad should understand pretty quickly that you meant what you said, and should be willing to work with you better in the future.
Even after you’ve communicated clearly, slip ups may happen. Try to always assume the best of your parents and in-laws. Remember that they mean well and that the occasional exception to the rule won’t hurt anyone long term. Choose your battles and know when to let go: when one late night, or one extra dessert, or whatever it is that makes grandma and grandpa time so special even if it doesn’t fit into your ideal routine, isn’t worth making a big deal about. Overall, grandparent time should be special and cherished, and hopefully stress-free for all parties.