The bond between a grandchild and a grandparent is so very special. While the excitement of a newborn may cause some grandparents to”forget” about your very clear and concise instructions when caring for your child, it doesn’t make it okay.
We all know that setting boundaries with our children might pose challenges, but nothing prepares a new parent for telling their own parent “no!”. Below is a list which my wife and I have experienced and we hope will help new parents implement boundaries and establish a healthy special relationship between your child and their grandparents (with your sanity — still intact).
Put yourself in their shoes
Chances are your parents and partner’s parents have been hoping, wishing, and praying for a grandchild before you even started trying for a baby. And why wouldn’t they? A grandchild is the universe’s way of granting them a second chance at reliving the best years of their youth — nurturing and loving. Garnering compassion for their experience will take the sting out of their snubs and help you communicate your requests more effectively.
Remember that stressful week (which one?) that you and your partner were in dire need of a day away of the house or epic sleep-in? In the heat of the moment, it’s easy to forget the countless ways that grandparents save the day. Acknowledge and express gratitude for the big and small ways that they enable you to enjoy the best parts of parenthood, before you address the outlandish gift they bought your child (that you specifically told them not to).
Keep your requests simple
Work with your partner to discover your non-negotiable requests and express them to all grandparents clearly, concisely, and often (and when necessary, write them down)! The simpler the requests, the simpler they are to abide.
When a boundary is crossed, address it
This can be the most uncomfortable step of all. When a boundary is crossed, it’s imperative that you address the one specific boundary (and forget the many past offenses), use “I” statements to express how violating your boundary made you feel, and repeat step three by expressing a clear and concise request moving forward.
Maintain your boundary
The essence of setting boundaries is to teach people how to treat you. Therefore, you can’t set a boundary with someone and take care of them at the same time. Be mindful that once you implement a clear boundary, you will (probably) receive a barrage of push back. Guilt and entitlement are grandparent favourites!
Honour your space, speak your truth — the rest is up to them!