Pregnancy and birth bring forth so many new experiences for the parents-to-be as well as for the grandparents-to-be. Navigating these relationships and setting boundaries can challenge the best relationships. Discussing this before the baby comes home and you are sleep deprived is a good idea
Family and friends mean well. They want to help. They want to show their expertise and knowledge around child-rearing. This is especially true of grandparents. They raised you and as their child, you have always listened to them. But now that you are a parent, you have your own ideas on how things should be done. Not to mention that research and safety have changed since your parents were parents.
As you find your footing as new parents, your parents need to find their footing now as grandparents. If this is happening for the first time, the shift can be significant for the grandparents as they shift from ‘parents’ to recognizing you are parents. They are used to be the ‘parent’ with all the decision-making that comes with that. But by becoming a grandparent, it changes your relationship with them, their relationship with you, and the face the facticity of life.
This unfamiliar territory is new for envy one involved. And there is no magical map to follow. Everyone needs to find their way in their new identity. One way to help this is to set up healthy boundaries.
Setting healthy boundaries
Setting up boundaries can be a difficult part of parenthood. Explaining to your parents, now grandparents, what is and what is not allowed can be stressful. However, it can help everyone to settle into their new roles and understand expectations.
By taking the reins on boundaries, you can explore and explain your parenting styles. Including how and when you will accept advice and opinions of well-meaning friends and family. Which practices you plan to adopt and which ones you plan to let go of.
No one parenting style is perfect. But as parents, it’s up to you to choose what is best for your children and your family. You have the right to make powerful new assessments of your needs and the right to make mistakes in your own unique way. Like all parents occasionally you will make mistakes and wish you had done something differently. That too is ok.
Society changes and safety changes but parenting fundamentally remains the same. Your parents may have thoughts, concerns, and valuable strategies to share. They may also have fears that they do not know how to verbalize without criticism. Here are some techniques to help your bridge a potential communication gap and move forward.
- Listen for the concern past the words or the tone used.
- Look for the positive intent beneath the comment.
- Speak it back to them nicely. “I heard you say that you are worried about the baby and …” “Is that right?”
- By focusing on concerns about the baby’s, you can show that you heard them and can start communicating with a common purpose.
- Avoid focusing on the criticism.
An example could be :
Grandparent: “You should not do that. Babies die that way.”
Parents: “I heard you say that you are concerned about the baby when practicing co-sleeping. Is that right?”
Grandparent: “Yes, you should not do that.”
Parent: “I would never do anything that I thought would hurt my baby. We co-sleep in a safe manner and it really helps me to be rested so that I can put my energy into taking it care of the baby safely both during the day and at night. Let me show you.”
This strategy may not always work but it is a great skill to know. I also would share a phrase from Dr. Julie Bindeman “ Thank you, I will take that (comment) under advisement.” This can be another strategy when you don’t have the time or ability to work a longer strategy.