by Carol L. Meylan, LCSW
Here is a common scenario that young families are often dealing with:
“My parents stayed with us over the Thanksgiving weekend. I love them and they were thrilled to spend time with my baby. But the problem is that my mother gave me too much advice! She thinks she is the expert because she had four children and has helped my sister with her children.
She offers help with how I can get my baby to sleep through the night and how much I should be feeding her. I know she is well-meaning, but a lot of her advice feels like criticism.
She acts like the expert, implying I am wrong in the way I am taking care of MY OWN child. Sure, a lot of her advice is very useful, but other times, I feel like a child again. And this brings up some negative feelings about how overbearing my mother was when I was growing up. I really need help with this problem because while I want my parents to be involved with my children, I also want my husband and me to be able to make our own decisions”.
A healthy relationship with grandparents enriches the lives of parents and children. The entire family bond is strengthened when grandparents are able to joyfully engage with their grandchildren. But unsolicited advice from grandparents can sometimes feel judgmental or controlling and trigger resentment or anger. Here are a few ways that parents can create a positive and nurturing grandparent relationship:
1) Make the grandparents feel important and needed.
Assume that your parents are well-meaning and want to support you. So when you want advice or need help, ask them for it. Grandparents feel important when they are included in a discussion or can offer their own expertise. Be proactive in telling them how and when they can help you.
2) Maintain your boundaries – politely, lovingly and firmly.
Often grandparents don’t realize that they are overstepping their boundaries and thereby making you feel judged or criticized. So let them know when you don’t want to hear their comments. Try saying, “Mom, I know you did things differently when I was a baby. I need to make my own decisions about how to do things.” Or, “Dad, on this issue, I would appreciate you following my approach”. Remind them that parenting and medical advice has changed over the last three decades and that you are following the recommendations of your child’s pediatrician. Often, it helps to invite grandparents to a parenting workshop or pediatrician appointment, so they can ask questions of the “experts”.
3) Resolve your own issues.
If you have unfinished business from your childhood or unresolved conflict with your parents, now is the time to resolve it. Why let lingering negative feelings have an effect on you as a parent? Work through those issues now, so they don’t interfere with you creating your own happy family.
If you want to talk to me about what is going on in your family specifically send me a message.