Living with more than one family in a home can be challenging, as each member comes to terms with their role in the family; trying to find their place, not step on anyone’s toes, find a moment of privacy.
For grandparents, it might be difficult to take a step back, to not “interfere” in the way their children raise their own children. To realise that different parenting styles are not necessarily “wrong” – to let go, and let their children take ultimate responsibility for the little ones. Or they might feel taken advantage of – a permanent, convenient babysitter and provider.
For parents, whether teen parents or not – living with their own parents while raising their children can feel daunting – they may feel like they are being watched or judged for not doing things the same way their parents did. There may be the temptation to leave the hard work up to granny – especially if granny is ready and willing to take over the role.
For all the challenges, extended family is important and living together can certainly be managed successfully to the benefit of all.
Having small children around keeps the grandparents feeling young, involved, valued. For parents, there is security in knowing that there is always an extra pair of eyes and hands around when they can’t be there for some reason. Having the voice of experience close by when you’re feeling overwhelmed as a parent can be invaluable.
For children: They learn to get along with all ages of people, to be considerate of every family member’s differing needs, and that they are always safe and loved by so many.
Throughout their lives, sisters, brothers, cousins will stay in close contact with each other. Important cultural, religious and other values continue to govern the lives all, especially the value of caring about the other and supporting family.
Closer families are stronger families. It takes a village to raise a child.
Give information. A lot has changed in the way children are raised today. Things that seemed normal then might be strange or even unsafe now. Parents need to give grandparents the facts calmly and politely, the way you would give information to any other adult.
When parents are criticized for “being soft” because they don’t believe in giving hidings a means of punishment: instead of judging the grandparent/other caregiver and accusing him or her of “interfering”, use sentences starting with “I”, for example:
“I understand that you feel a smack on the bottom is harmless but I learnt different ways of disciplining children that I would like to try”
When grandparents or others want to share their ideas with parents don’t start with: “When I was……..” Instead use the “I feel sentence”: for example:
“I feel hurt when I am not given a chance to talk about my experience today and how difficult it is when the two younger ones won’t stop arguing.”
Hear each other out. Parents remember that older people do have lots of knowledge and experience. Though you may not agree with them, at least hear them out. If you don’t, you might miss out on some valuable information that they have.
Stand your ground. If a parent feels that a grandparent is being unreasonable, politely point out that the child is happy and healthy as a result of the way he or she is being parented… Use I-sentences such as:
“I know that you feel upset that I do not take your advice or that I judge you but I feel very strongly about this”
If the grand-parent reacts angrily, or it seems not possible to communicate with them, drop the subject. Later, when everyone has cooled off, hold a family meeting to calmly talk about the situation.
Problem-solve. Find solutions together:
“We are both concerned about the children and want them to be happy and healthy.Let us put our heads together and see what ideas we can come up with”
Compiled by Tracy Engelbrecht of Young Moms Support and Fouzia Ryklief of The Parent Centre.