Updated: Sep 30, 2022
Every generation holds its own unique rules for parenting. That’s why when both parents and grandparents are involved in the process, managing these differences is essential for a healthy family dynamic.
The 2019 UN household data shows that in nearly one in four Asian households, grandparents live with their grandchildren (1). Evidently, grand-parenting is still an important dimension of family care giving today. But this dynamic comes with a few non-negotiables.
Without proper communication, arguing over the differences can create an emotional minefield. Hence, we need to look at the common conflicts intergenerational families encounter and how we can manage them.
Common Conflicts Between Parents And Grandparents
The unique role that grandparents play in a family is invaluable. Especially to first-time parents, they offer great support on various aspects of parenting thanks to their wisdom. However, unspoken wedges can strain relationships, divide spouses, and cause generational angst. That’s why it’s important to identify these common conflicts families may encounter.
1. Disciplinary decisions
This survey found 40% of parents who reported disagreements said they stemmed from grandparents treating children too leniently (2). On the other hand, 14% said grandparents’ tough love caused disputes. Clearly, the decisions regarding how to discipline children can create conflict between grandparents and parents.
2. Financial stress
Family disputes may also concern money. This is especially when both parents and grandparents contribute financially to their children. Or when those part of the “sandwich generation”, have to financially support both their parents AND their children (3).
Not to mention, multigenerational needs have become even more pressing during the Covid-19 pandemic. This is because record numbers of adult children are moving back home and with elderly parents needing new forms of care.
3. Lifestyle differences
Another common issue that crops up when parents live with grandparents is the giving of unsolicited lifestyle advice. This includes disregarding guidelines for diet, screen time, bedtimes, and so on. This is especially true today with technology and media. Things like unreliable health advice and unregulated online content have presented parenting challenges that their parents never faced.
Four Ways to Manage Conflicts Between Parents and Grandparents
Dynamics around grandparental involvement in family care could affect the relationship between the generations in both ways. Most parents appreciate the presence of grandparents in their kids’ lives, but at the same time, they risk their parenting goals being disrupted. Luckily, there are a few ways to balance this up:
1. Define roles and rules
Clearly defining their own roles and their expectations of the grandparents is key to minimizing conflict. Experts stated it is the parents’ role to delegate authority to grandparents, not the other way around (4).
Both husband and wife should first layout each other's parenting values. With a united standpoint, proceed to communicate your rules and expectations to the grandparents. Clearly and calmly let them know how they can help and what they shouldn’t do.
2. Communicate differences empathetically
No matter how good the intention is, there will be disagreements in ways of parenting. But before we confront anyone, try to understand their point of view and tactfully reason with them.
Oftentimes, grandparents approach things from their own parenting experiences, which may or may not be outdated. Grandparents may also try to compensate for their perceived or actual shortcomings as parents.
To communicate empathetically, you may start by sharing what aspects you appreciate of them. Then calmly inform them of how what worked years ago may not work as well now.
3. Compromise when necessary
We all want the best for our kids. And sometimes the best strategies happen in the middle ground. For example, grandparents can be entrusted to make decisions when parents are not present. This includes decisions for when a child’s action directly affects them, or when a child's safety is at stake.
4. Include them in discussions
Both parents and grandparents should assume good intentions of each other's behavior. With a positive lens, each member of the family can then actively participate in discussions regarding parenting decisions.
Families may even attend parenting classes or make visits to the pediatrician as one unit. This is so that everyone will be able to understand each other’s decisions better.
Conflicts are bound to happen. That’s why honest communication is essential for a healthy intergenerational family. This means clearly recognizing respective roles and practicing good boundaries when raising children. Ultimately, the end goal is to cultivate mutual respect and a loving environment among grandparents, parents, and especially the kids.
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