It is not uncommon that after a divorce or separation that one parent needs to move in with their own parents in order to make financial ends meet. What happens when the grandparents become overly involved in parenting the grandchildren during visitation?
Let’s take a look at Joe and Sarah.
Joe left the marital residence and moved in with his parents. Joe and Sarah found some common parenting ground and established rules for both parents to follow with their children.
The problem: Joe’s parents have additional rules in their household. Some are contradictory to the ones that Joe and Sarah have come up with in their co-parenting agreement. When the children become confused by the contradictory rules, they begin to act out.
Joe, feeling like he is caught between a rock and a hard place (his parent’s rules and the co parent agreement) doesn’t know what to do but tries his best. When his best fails, his parents step in and take over the parenting role leaving Joe to look powerless in his children’s eyes. When Joe’s parents aren’t around, it becomes a free for all for the children and Joe has no control over the situation.
Wow!!! What to do? Let’s start by exploring the grandparent role.
Grandparents have a very important role in grandchildren’s lives. When you are a grandparent your role switches from parent to the soft place for kids to fall. Your time with your grandchildren should be fun and one that you all enjoy. When your grandchildren come from a divorced home, it is more important than ever that you remain in the neutral position.
So, why are Joe’s parents leaving that role? Because Joe is having problems parenting.
I understand that you to want to jump in and parent the grandchildren. After all, that is what you have done the majority of your life but that is not your job. That is Joe’s job. So, the real question is, how can you help Joe without actually jumping in to the parenting role?
When the children are getting out of hand, this is your opportunity to step in and offer the children a diversion or a fun activity that they can do with you. This stops the behavior and gives Joe a few minutes to collect himself. By choosing this step it leaves Joe’s reputation as the “parent” in-tact and eliminating the problem that Joe has when parenting the children alone.
After the children leave, that is the time that you can sit Joe down and talk to him about his parenting skills. If you are truly concerned that he is having problems keeping things in hand, then offer suggestions of parenting classes, parent therapy or parent coaching. By offering these suggestions, it puts you in the neutral position.
I understand that you have raised your children with success but your parenting beliefs and methods may not be the ones that Joe and Sarah have agreed upon. If you choose to advise Joe on parenting methods, you are setting yourself up to be blamed for any future problems between Joe and Sarah when it comes to peacefully co-parenting their children. Why put yourself in that position?
By choosing these steps, it sets Joe up to be a successful parent and allows you to be your grandchildren’s soft place to fall. What better place is there to be?