Don’t suffer in silence; be open, be honest and always speak with love when setting ground rules.
I typically side with young parents and encourage grandparents to “zip it” and wait to be invited to share their child rearing advice. However, I do think there are a few situations involving grandchildren when grandparents are justified in setting the ground rules they expect to be followed.
Use of digital devices. Grandparents can decree “digital-free” zones and times in their own home, for example, banning texting and reading emails at their dinner table. And this includes everyone, especially the young parents, who are often the main offenders. If rebellion and threats skip to Sunday dinner arise, then so be it. Grandparents may have to be prepared to tolerate the use of the devices at others’ dinner tables, but they certainly don’t have to permit such rude behavior in their own home.
“We feel we’re seeing waaaaaaay too much of you.”
Dress. Grandparents should let their grandchildren know when they would like them to make different fashion choices when in their presence. I once advised a grand- father to say the following when his grand- daughter ignored his earlier requests to dress up a bit at family gatherings: “When you’re with us in our home, your grandmother and
I would so appreciate it if you didn’t wear sausage-tight clothes and expose your gluteal cleft, breasts and cleavage, navel, and upper thighs. It makes us uncomfortable as we feel we’re seeing waaaaaaay too much of you.”
Their granddaughter immediately complied by dressing more conservatively when she visits her grandparents in their home, as well as when they visit in her home. Fashion rules may also apply to baseball hats at the dinner table or what they wear on social occasions, such as church or family reunions.
In these situations it is not uncommon for the grandchildren to point out that their parents don’t care how they dress, or if they are digitally connected at dinner. The grandparents can say: “We care, and this is between you and us. We have shared with you what is important to us when we’re together and we are counting on you to accommodate us. Thank you.”
Karen L. Rancourt, PhD, writes an advice column for parents and grandparents at Mommybites com and is the author of Ask Dr. Gramma Karen:Helping Young Parents and Grandparents Deal with Thorny Issues.