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Understandably, grandparents want to spend time with their grandchildren and develop a close relationship with them by sharing stories, giving cuddles, and joining in with activities.
This can, however, sometimes be easier said than done if there is a substantial distance to contend with or if their grandparents have a tendency to be overbearing. If you are wondering how often your children should see their grandparents, there is no 'one size fits all' answer but here at Kidadl, we have put together some handy information that can help you make a well-rounded decision and set boundaries that work for you and your children to create a good child/grandparent relationship.
How Often Should Grandchildren See Their Grandparents?
The answer to this question will most certainly depend on how far away their grandparents live, your family setup, and whether their grandparents are involved in their childcare in any way. If your children have grandparents who live in the same town, then it is reasonable to think they will see their grandchildren once a week or once a fortnight, but maybe just for a few hours a time. If they live in a different state to their grandchildren, then this frequency might be three or four times a year but for a period of a week or so each time.
How Much Should Grandparents Be Involved?
This really depends on the level of involvement that you, as parents, think you'll be happy with. There will be many grandparents that hope to spend as much time with their grandchildren as possible but it is when this hope turns into an expectation that it becomes problematic.
If you are part of a close-knit family, then you may also be anticipating that your children get to see their grandma and grandpa frequently and you may even be hoping that they'll be available to help look after your children on occasions where you have to work or have a planned trip away.
If you are independent or your relationship with your own parents or in-laws is strained, then you may have different feelings about how often your children will see their extended family. Either way, it is important to clearly communicate your boundaries early on and decide on what is best for your family.
How Often Should Great Grandparents See Their Grandchildren?
Depending on your family tree, you may have grandparents who will want to be a part of their great grandchildren's lives. Depending on their age, the way that they spend time with their great-grandchildren may be quite different from how your parents spend time with them. If they are elderly and not very mobile, it might be a case of popping in for a few hours a few times a year as they aren't able to play with their grandchildren or go on outdoor excursions.
Navigating A Long-Distance Relationship Between Your Children and Their Grandparents
Grandparents who don't see their grandchildren miss out on being part of their important life milestones which can be upsetting for both parties. If a lack of physical contact between a grandchild and their grandparents is down to distance, then there are things you can do to ensure that a relationship between your child and each grandparent can still flourish.
Make Use of Technology
In the age of apps, cell phones, and other handheld devices, building a long-distance relationship is that much easier than it was 20 or even 10 years ago. Even when your parents or in-laws can't physically be with their grandkids, they can still keep in touch and even partake in a range of fun activities with their grandkids.
A general phone call or face time once a month is a great place to start and gives your child the opportunity to talk to their grandma or grandpa about what they have been up to at school, any sports activities or hobbies they are enjoying, and so on.
In addition, you could schedule times where your child can do something fun online with their grandparents such as listen to them tell a story, play a game or even do some baking together, at a distance!
Keep Them Updated
Now, this suggestion does take a little time and effort but it can be a really nice way to keep grandparents up-to-date with the lives of their grandchildren and make them feel a part of it. If the grandparents have a computer or smartphone then you can set up an email address for them to which you can send pictures, drawings, and anecdotes; almost like an online diary of their grandchild's life. If they don't have access to such technologies, then a handwritten letter and some printed photos each month would be just as special.
Plan Reciprocal Visits
Cross-country visits to grandma can be taxing and expensive but there is always the option to allow your parents to visit their grandchildren closer to home too. If you have space in your house, then why not welcome grandparents once or twice a year to stay for a week? If they do the same, then there are already two to four occasions each year where your child will be able to spend time with their grandparents. If you don't have space at home, then discuss the cost of a nearby rental or hotel as that way, they'll still be close enough to be able to come over to your house and take part in activities like family meals or days out.
Benefits Of Children Seeing Their Grandparents Often
As well as helping bring the family closer together and helping share the childcare load with parents, it is said that when a grandchild sees their grandparents on a regular basis, it is actually beneficial to their overall wellbeing and emotional intelligence.
The grandchild/grandparent relationship is beneficial for not just the grandchild and grandparent but also for the parent as well. A grandchild spending time with a grandparent, especially if they live far away, is special for both of them and it can also provide a much-needed break for parents. In instances where grandparents are retired, they may have more energy and patience for their grandchild when playing with them too. What's more, many grandchildren will view their grandparents as another source of support and advice that can help with wellbeing and make grandparents feel like an important part of their grandchild's life.
Development Of Social Skills
Socializing with a wider circle of people is great for children as it gives them the opportunity to develop their communication, try new activities and meet people from different walks of life. Spending time with their extended family also gives them the chance to ask questions and listen, enhance their emotional capacity and learn from additional role models aside from you as their parents.
Exploration of Family History
Your parents will be able to provide insight into your family history that you may not through memories, photos and first-hand experience of years gone by. Many grandchildren love hearing about when each of their parents was a baby and when their grandparents were younger, and it helps them develop a deeper connection to their family heritage.
The Drawbacks of Your Child Seeing Their Grandparents Too Often
Whilst there are plenty of positives to your children seeing their grandparents regularly, unfortunately, there can also be some downfalls to think about. If you begin to notice anything about your parent's or child's behavior that you aren't happy with, it is best to raise it as a matter of discussion with them quickly, and take steps to deal with it together.
If your child spends too much time with your parents or your partner's parents, it can lead to a situation where they don't know who to listen to when instructions are given and a lack of clarity over routines, especially when speaking about a baby or infant. To avoid this happening, have a conversation with grandparents from the start about the routines you have put in place with your child and update them with any changes. So, for example, if your eight-year-old has a bedtime of 7 p.m., make sure that if the grandparents have their grandchild overnight, they stick to this time too.
Now, this doesn't just refer to your child having unhealthy attachments to their grandparent but also the development of toxic traits from the grandparents too. It can be difficult for grandparents to recognize the difference between being a parent and a grandparent and once you have a baby, you may find that they want to spend all their time with your child. In addition, you may feel like there is a favorite grandchild or that your parents use tangible gifts in exchange for affection which is unhealthy and can be detrimental to your child. If you begin to notice any of these toxic traits in a grandparent, be sure to address them straight away by clearly setting your boundaries and calmly explaining why their behavior is upsetting.
Copying Of Habits
Children have a tendency to copy what they see so if they happen to be around people with habits such as swearing, rudeness, or untidiness, there is a strong chance they will begin to replicate these. If your parents are spending time with your children, then make it clear to them that they need to mirror the behavior you show to your child and that they need to help you reinforce the values you have worked hard to instill in your offspring.
Creating Grandparent Boundaries
Whether it be your own parents or your mother-in-law, it is not uncommon for grandparents to sometimes step over the line when it comes to their grandkids. Disregarding instructions you have given, undertaking activities that aren't appropriate for your baby, or even undermining you in front of your child are all examples of grandparents overstepping boundaries. Whilst it can be difficult to have a conversation about this with them, it is important that you do so. If you need to know how to tell grandparents to back off in a calm but direct manner, we have some top tips that might help.
The arrival of a new baby can cause conflict across the family and this doesn't necessarily go away once the child gets older. If you are dealing with an overbearing grandparent who tries to push their opinions onto you or tries to dictate how you should parent, then you'll need to take a firm stance with them. You can tell them that whilst you value their advice and will take on board their comments, you are finding your own parenting approach that works for you and your children and that will not necessarily be the same as how they did it or what they think is best.
Grandparents Crossing Boundaries
Grandparents disrespecting parents can be really detrimental, not just to the relationship between the parents and grandparents but also between the parent and children as well. If you find you are constantly being undermined or that your child's grandparents are frequently acting against your parenting wishes, then you'll need to speak up. It is OK to call out their behavior and if they don't make changes after such discussion, then you may need to think about how often your children see them.
You might find that you and your parent's expectations align with regards to how often they see their grandchildren, but if not, there are some things you can do.
For example, it might be worthwhile telling them that unplanned drop-ins are not appropriate and that they need to call ahead of time for planned visits. This gives you time to prepare and shows that your family's time is governed by you, not them.
If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at how to deal with grandparents disrespecting parents, or how to talk to your doctor about anxiety?
The Kidadl Team is made up of people from different walks of life, from different families and backgrounds, each with unique experiences and nuggets of wisdom to share with you. From lino cutting to surfing to children’s mental health, their hobbies and interests range far and wide. They are passionate about turning your everyday moments into memories and bringing you inspiring ideas to have fun with your family.