1. Undermining their authority with the grandkids
You may be very confident in your parenting skills. After all, you've likely got a lot more experience than your own kids, and so some decisions your kids make when raising your grandkids may seem odd or even unreasonable to you. However, you must remember that parenting now versus decades ago is very different because the circumstances have changed a lot, and so you must respect your kid's parenting style and always ask before calling the shots yourself. Otherwise, you're essentially communicating to your child that they're not right, which is always hurtful, especially when it comes from you.
In addition, it's also important not to challenge your kids' decisions in front of the child - for example, if your daughter said no dessert before dinner, don't pull out a candy bar out of your pocket and secretly give it to the grandkids. This may show you in a more favorable light in the short term, but it will also undermine your daughter's authority, as it will indicate to the grandkids that their mother isn't right. After all, there are many other ways to win over a grandchild's heart other than candy.
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2. Staying silent or being meek
How many times have you not called your kids when you actually needed their help? Many older parents are guilty of staying silent and saying that everything's fine because they “didn't want to trouble" their kids - a sentiment that appears considerate at first, but often ends up only costing you and ultimately your kids more time and effort.
Even though you may feel like a nuisance and a bother when you need help driving somewhere or doing a minor chore you can't do on your own, you surely understand deep down that your children would be more than glad to help you. After all, if your kids were in trouble, you'd want them to talk to you first, too, instead of withholding information or turning for help to some stranger.
3. Taking things personally
Are you upset that the grandkids aren't in touch with you as much as the other grandparents? Or that your children aren't taking parenting or any other advice from you? Surely, you mean well when you're looking for a connection and trying to offer your help to your loved ones, but that doesn't legitimize a negative emotional response and it's just part of a normal relationship dynamic. You must understand that it's time to shift gears because you're no longer the reigning authority in your children's (and their families') lives, but a friend and ally instead.
When it comes to grandkids, it may be useful to communicate to them in their own tongue, so to speak, instead of trying to reach them on the phone - try texting or video-chatting with them instead, as this is the medium that they feel the most comfortable with. As for the advice, remember that that's exactly what it is - advice - not an order, and so your kids are free to take it or leave it.
4. Distancing yourself
Do you live far away and don't see the kids regularly? It's an extremely widespread issue these days, in which it's very easy to slip away into your own bubble and only keep in touch on holidays and birthdays, if ever. After all, they're all young and seem to constantly be too busy. This lack of communication, in turn, can lead to a lot of resentment and tension between you, and conversations will become even more forced and brief, regretfully.
To prevent this from happening and restart your involvement in your children's lives, simply stay in touch every few weeks at least, however brief the interaction may be - a text message, a video call, or a short phone call. It's best to start small and avoid hour-long conversations. Let your family know that you want to stay involved in their lives, ask them about their daily lives, work, school, and any activities. “It can be scary when we get on the phone and kids won’t talk, but don’t let it scare you,” stated psychotherapist Deanna Brann, Ph.D. “Staying involved a little at a time builds consistency, and over time that will build a bond.”
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5. Getting too involved
On the other side of the spectrum, it's often easy for parents to go overboard with their involvement in their adult kids' personal lives, work, finances, and marriage. According to Jane Greer, a psychotherapist who counsels many parents and their adult children, the lack of boundaries and excessive involvement in the kids' lives is the most common issue among adult kids and parents. We understand your intention is to help, but don't you want your kids to learn to deal with life struggles on their own, be independent and one day capable of supporting and help you? Well of course you do, and to accomplish that, you must be tactical of the times you do and don't get involved.
Then, there are also those cases where parent involvement is nearly always ill-advised, an obvious example being marriage advice. “Getting involved puts you in the middle of your kids’ marriage and creates tension for them, which is the last thing you want to do," said Dr. Brann. Instead, just let them work things out on their own and support your child's decisions to build a strong, reliable, and lifelong bond with them.
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