How To Ask Grandparents To Get More Involved With Your Child
If your parents aren't diving right into their grandparent role, how can you talk to them about spending more time with your kiddos?
For new moms and dads, one of the most exciting parts of pregnancy is telling your parents they’re being promoted to grandparents. But if they don’t dive into that role over time, how can you ask grandparents to be more involved with your child? Whether Grandma and Grandpa stay away because of conflict between you and them, having to keep a safe distance for health issues, or reasons totally unknown to you, there are ways to talk about becoming (or staying) active with the grandkids.
Why It’s Important For Grandparents To Be Involved With Their Grandchildren
Jenna Glover, Ph.D., is a psychologist and the director of Psychology Training in the Pediatric Mental Health Institute at Children’s Hospital Colorado. In an interview with Romper, she says having involved grandparents is really beneficial to kids as they grow up.
“There are many positive benefits to having grandparents involved in their grandkids’ lives. One of the important things, especially for younger kids, is it gives them a chance to practice having different kinds of relationships and interactions with adults. Having a different perspective of someone who loves you and is invested in your well-being, but isn’t your parent, is very important,” Glover explains. “When it comes to teens, grandparents can get away with things parents can’t. Sometimes they can give advice to their grandkid that would be met differently than if a parent gave that same advice. Very few kids get an adult’s undivided attention, but because of their phase of life, grandparents can often offer that when they’re together, which has positive benefits for kids.”
Also, if your child ever goes through an adverse childhood experience, like experiencing trauma from abuse or neglect, having supportive adults around can help them avoid any of the negative consequences (like increased risk of chronic diseases and stress, according to the CDC).
“We know one of the biggest protective factors for kids and helping them be resilient is to have a close and trusted relationship with an adult, and grandparents are in a wonderful place to fill that role. It’s one of the most important roles they can play,” says Glover.
How To Talk To Grandparents About Being More Involved
So, if your parents haven’t been involved with your kiddo, it’s important to have a conversation about why. Dr. Victor Fornari, M.D., board-certified psychiatrist and chair of Child & Adolescent Medicine at Northwell Health, tells Romper in an interview that you need to assess a few things honestly before jumping into that convo.
“Every adult child has a different relationship with their parents, so there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Many grandparents are naturally involved, and this conversation doesn’t have to occur. But when it does, it really depends on what the adults are asking. Are you asking for childcare? For the grandkids to have more of a relationship with the grandparents?”
Fornari explains that most grandparents want to be involved in playdates and activities, but if you’ve asked them to provide childcare and they’re not comfortable doing so, that can cause some distance. Start by just asking some questions.
“Think, ‘Mom or Dad, how often do you want to get together with us and the kids, whether it’s playdates, dinners, FaceTime, whatever it might be?’ It’s often the grandparent’s strong desire to increase it, so if the adult child is needing to ask for it, it suggests the grandparent has not been forthcoming. It could be because there’s some tension with one of the adult children, or the father or mother of the kids has conflict with the grandparents and they don’t want to be around the spouse.”
Of course, there are times when you have never had a great relationship with your parent. Fornari says family counseling can help mend that rift.
“Oftentimes that’s the relationship that could use a tune-up. If they haven’t repaired it in their own childhood or adolescence, it’s never too late to repair it during your adulthood. You can always get family counseling to try and improve the relationship, which usually ends up improving the grandparent-grandkid relationship. It really is sad when ties have to be severed, so every attempt to work on it is optimal, though I do recognize there are times when the relationship is so fractured and toxic where there is no alternative.”
If your parents have stayed away from your littles because of a conflict or sore spot with you, it’s actually best to set the issue aside for your kids’ sake.
“One of the most important things is not to transmit those conflicts to your children,” Glover says. “I would advise parents to be mindful about how you talk about those difficulties in front of your children. Talk about those conflicts with your significant other or the grandparent rather than in front of your children. Also, assume positive intent. Everyone probably has the grandkid’s best intentions in mind. Let your children develop their own opinions and relationships free of that conflict.”
If you’re trying to help your parents and child build their relationship, start conversations that will help them connect with each other.
“One thing parents can do is invite grandparents to share about their experiences,” says Glover. “Have them teach their grandchildren about their family trees, tell stories about when they were younger, and share memories the child’s own parents growing up. Those are fun, intergenerational ways to connect with kids, and they enjoy having a picture of their history and where they come from.”
And if your children and their grandparents are apart to keep everyone safe and unexposed to health issues, they can still find ways to connect. Making sure they do helps keep both happy and benefitting from their bond.
“The wonderful aspect of technology is we can do things like video conference, so having regular and unexpected check-ins via Zoom or FaceTime is fun,” Glover says. “I would encourage grandparents to look at getting involved in using different apps, like TikTok. I think teens and kids alike are pretty delighted when their grandparents are on apps like that. This is a really fun time to write letters and cards, so being able to have a pen pal is a great way to connect.”
Jenna Glover, Ph.D., psychologist and director of Psychology Training in the Pediatric Mental Health Institute at Children’s Hospital Colorado
Dr. Victor Fornari, M.D., board-certified psychiatrist and chair of Child & Adolescent Medicine at Northwell Health