"Before I became a mother, I was so lucky. To have had a strong relationship with my sisters, parents, and grandparents. During my childhood, being with our extended family was a little challenging, given the fact that we were living so far away in Hong Kong, but my parents invited our grandparents to visit every year, and every summer we would go to stay with them in Cape Cod and Boston. Although we saw each other only once or twice a year, my grandmother always sent me birthday cards and notes for other occasions, which I still have in a folder my mother put together for me. Growing up, I saw how important family ties were, and I am trying to instill this same awareness in my children. I feel that having a solid relationship with my parents and in-laws strengthens our family circle and teaches children the blessings of family."
In one of my blog posts, I wrote about the importance of grandparents. If your parents are healthy and able to take to take part in your life, they can play a positive role in your child’s development. In my post, I addressed the fact that some grandparents tend to be more lenient when it comes to rules and may occasionally go against how we choose to parent. At times like these, it’s important to mind your manners and find a polite way to broach the topic; just because they are close family members doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be afforded the same level of courtesy you would extend toward anyone else. Family issues should be addressed with politeness.
Every family has its own dynamic, and you can’t stop your children from arguing with one another. It’s normal and healthy, and teaches them how to manage their way through their own emotions. But when you become a parent, it’s important to work toward creating good relationships with family members regardless of familial quirks. In certain circumstances, this can be hard, but you can make it easier by trying to keep children out of family arguments and issues. This is especially difficult when wounds are still raw and emotions are running high; it requires being accepting and nurturing, and keeping conversations about a family member you aren’t on good terms with away from the ears of any children.
As children mature, they will naturally develop their own relationships with relatives; it makes me happy to see that my children are so close with their cousins, for examples, and they have become true friends. But we all hear heartbreaking stories of families that don’t talk anymore, and I firmly believe in doing all that is possible to avoid such an outcome. I’m not here to lecture you on how to keep your family together. But, as a mother of five, I’d love to share some of my suggestions on how we can be courteous and respectful to one another – because, after all, family matters.
SPENDING TIME WITH GRANDPARENTS:
Grandparents sometimes feel hesitant about making plans with their grandchildren because they don’t want to appear intrusive, but this could mean that your children would miss out on such a wonderful, life-enhancing intergenerational connection. Finding a common bond between your children and their grandparents can be the answer. My mother and daughter, for instance, both have a love of fashion, art and design, and will often go to galleries and shows together. If you notice that your parents or in-laws are having a hard time engaging with your children, gently suggest activities they might both like to do together, as you know your child best.
It can be hard to get a toddler to calm down or keep their voice down, but do your best to make sure your children are well mannered and respectful around elderly relatives. Acting in a proper and gentle manner is particularly important if you are visiting an elderly relative in an assisted-living facility, so be sure to prepare your child beforehand about what is and isn’t appropriate behavior, especially since young children might find it hard to articulate if they are feeling uncomfortable. Kindness matters.
- Look Smart: An outing with grandparents is the perfect opportunity to teach your child the importance of dressing up. Seeing that an effort has been made for them will be greatly appreciated by most grandparents.
- Be Considerate: Children need to be mindful of generational differences. A grandparent might not want to watch your child play video games, for example, or go see a loud movie with them. Suggest they spend this time at a museum or the theater, or doing another activity that relates to a shared interest instead.
- Mind Your P’s and Q’s: Teach your child to be extra polite to their grandparents; being mindful of their manners really will go a long way. (Note: good manners should be extended toward all elders, family or not!)
- Set Out the House Rules: Parents should have an honest and open conversation with the grandparents to explain the house rules. This works both ways: if your parents and in-laws have their own set of rules about expectations, whatever they may be, discuss them – and if your child is old enough, go over these standards with them. You are entrusting your parents with your child and must accept that they might not share the same beliefs as you. Remember: they are parents too, so be kind.
- Make it Personal: Written thank-you cards are homemade art projects are always welcomed by grandparents, Keeping the communication channels open will help your kids’ grandparents to feel more involved in their grandchildren’s early years. It’s also important for children to learn the value of having an older relative in their life.
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