Tension Between the Grandparents? 6 Ways to Keep the Peace

Tension Between the Grandparents? 6 Ways to Keep the Peace

Experts share how to ease tensions between both sets of grandparents.

By Lauren Brown

There’s nothing like grandparents’ unwavering love and over-the-top displays of affection. But that same unconditional, unfiltered love causes a lot of stress when the grandparents from each side of the family try to outdo each other. Tensions run high, the kids pick up on it, Mom and Dad feel like they have to choose sides and voila – grandparents are no longer sweet, innocent, and joyous.

Here, clinical psychologist Barbara Greenberg and developmental psychologist and parenting coach Amy J.L. Baker share their best tips on keeping the peace among all the grandparents and avoiding tension before it even starts.

1. Set expectations immediately. It doesn’t need to be a big, somber discussion, but setting expectations and boundaries with grandparents up front (in a lighthearted way) can save you a lot of unnecessary drama later on. “Put a positive spin on it,” suggests Greenberg. “Perhaps say something like, ‘Our kids are so lucky to have all of you, so let's work hard to not make things competitive. Kids won't benefit from the tugging and pulling of competition.’ And the parents have to be in agreement on the role they want grandparents to play.”

Baker says all of the problems she’s seen in her work stem from one parent feeling more important to the children than the other parent. “This belief then extends to the grandparents,” she says. “So the parent who believes that he or she is more important to the children will then give his/her parents more importance as grandparents.” The easiest way to avoid this is to have a conversation with your husband about the role you want both sets of grandparents to play and remain a united front on that decision.

2. Sense someone’s upset? Don’t be afraid to ask. Ignoring tension is only going to make it worse. Facing it head on will get to the root of the problem faster and make it go away before more damage is done. “Passive-aggressive behavior usually means that someone's feelings got hurt,” suggests Baker. “Thus, the place to start is by asking what is going on. Maybe there is some reality to the hurt feelings from the grandparents or maybe they are imagining it. But the only way to find out is to ask.”

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3. Let absence make the heart grow fonder – not resentful. When only one set of grandparents lives nearby, it’s OK to gently tell them that when the other grandparents are visiting, they would like some alone time with the kids. “As long as you do it in a kind and respectful manner,” says Greenberg. “But you do want to encourage the grandparents to see each other. You want to encourage a good relationship.”

Plus, there are ways to keep the out-of-town grandparents connected so the distance doesn’t make them feel like they are missing out. “Make sure to offer to help the grandparents set up their technology so they can take advantage of the options out there,” says Baker. “Having scheduled routine time for the out-of-town grandparents to check in might be a good way to go. A family tradition that starts early in the child's life could be set up in order to ensure that the out-of-towners are included on a regular basis.”

4. Set boundaries if all the grandparents live nearby. It can be a bit overwhelming to have four grandparents in close proximity all ready, willing, and able to dote on the kids -- and grate on one another. “The only solution is to be mindful of your own needs,” says Baker. “Ask yourself when is two sets of grandparents too much for you and when does it feel good to have them all together.” And Greenberg suggests setting up schedules for both so no one feels they are getting more time than the other. “Kids thrive on structure and predictability,” Greenberg says.


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5. Money can’t buy love. “Set a limit on how much grandparents can spend on the kids,” says Greenberg. “We want our kids to get the message that money doesn't buy love!” And, if one set of grandparents has more disposable income, things can get tricky when explaining to the kids why one grandma can buy more things than the other. “Make sure to value the contributions of both sets of grandparents,” says Baker. “If the parents show that they appreciate and value what everyone has to offer, then the grandparents with the lower income will be less likely to feel hurt or embarrassed or disregarded.”

6. Stay positive! Don’t view everything one set of grandparents does as competition with the other. “There’s enough love in children's hearts for all of their grandparents,” says Baker. “If the parents can keep that in mind, then they can help the grandparents relax and enjoy their grandchildren rather than feeling that they have to win or beat the other side.” Make sure that you and your kids appreciate that they have grandparents in their lives and enjoy it.

How do you keep the peace between your parents and your spouse’s parents?

Lauren Brown is a freelance writer and pop culture junkie/expert who just took on her most exciting and exhilarating assignment yet – new mom to an adorable baby girl!

Image ©iStock.com/bowdenimages

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