As you welcome a newborn to your household, how to manage your baby’s relationship with his/her grandparents will be one of the issues you’re likely to face. Your parents and in-laws can be wonderful support figures when you become a parent, but they could also bring some stress to your days during this busy period of change. Setting boundaries is therefore essential, but what’s the best way to communicate your expectations? In this article, we’ll look at some considerations that could set the groundwork for a healthy dynamic between your newborn and their grandparents while minimising stress and uncertainty for you as a parent.
Why boundaries are important
As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. Your newborn will likely be spending a lot of time with others, including your in-laws or parents. Indeed, nearly three in four grandparents are regularly involved in taking care of the grandkids and make themselves available when needed.
Given this, setting boundaries with the grandparents is essential. You’re the parent and have complete responsibility for your newborn. Basic rules guide family members on what’s appropriate in your eyes. They ensure everyone cares for your baby in the way you want, and so they allow you to fulfil your responsibility as a parent. They reduce ambiguity for grandparents who might need more clarification about what you expect from them.
Rules also allow you to set a sensible schedule during a busy time. You’ll be caring for your newborn and adapting to a new daily routine, so don’t be hesitant about, for example, telling the grandparents the best times to visit.
1. Be proactive and direct
Be proactive and direct in communicating your expectations concerning your new baby. Be polite but don’t leave too much room for ambiguity. Avoid indecision in stating what you want. For example, if a grandparent is dropping by unannounced and you’d prefer them to call first, be direct and say, “This time doesn’t work for me. Would next week suit you?” Dealing with things early on prevents worsening boundary violations.
2. Clarify the key topics
From the newborn stage to the teenage years and beyond, the grandparents will likely have a lot of time with your kids. Whether you’re sitting down and having a formal conversation or communicating them as the issues come up, cover the key topics with the grandparents:
- Birth and newborn milestones – Some grandparents might want to be deeply involved in everything from birth to other key milestones like the day you bring your baby home. Set boundaries on their level of involvement from the start.
- Safety, health, and privacy – It might be relevant to discuss everything from cribs and baby equipment to hygiene, sleeping position, and how to hold a baby. You might also have rules about not posting baby photos online without your permission.
- Food – What you feed your baby is important, so go over this with the grandparents if they’ll be helping with feeding.
- Gifts and treats – Key rules you might want to address include food as treats, gifts, and bedtimes. Grandparents want to spoil the grandkids, but too much chocolate, extended shopping trips to the toy store, and staying up all night might not align with your ideas about teaching delayed gratification and healthful eating habits.
- Activities – It can be a good idea to outline the kind of activities, special events, holidays, and child care, and what’s appropriate.
- Norms and values – Discuss the kinds of norms, cultural values, and traditions you’re comfortable with the grandparents passing on to your baby as he/she gets older.
- Disciplining kids – As your baby gets older, the issue of how to handle discipline might come up. Your child’s grandparents shouldn’t undermine your authority as a parent. Be clear on what you expect in this area as well.
3. Focus on your baby’s welfare
Ultimately as the parent, you have the final say. However, if it looks like you’re headed for disagreement or conflict, emphasise your shared priority of positive intent for your newborn. Listen to the grandparent’s suggestions but always bring it back to your baby’s welfare. This reminds the grandparents that you’re all focused on your baby’s wellbeing as a shared common ground, rather than who’s right or wrong. It can support goodwill and understanding and minimise conflict.
4. Express gratitude
Even as you’re setting boundaries as necessary, don’t forget to express gratitude for the help and support your parents and in-laws provide. It’s easy to forget how your baby’s grandparents gave up their Saturday night when you and your partner were in need of a break and a night out. Acknowledging and communicating your gratitude for both small and big things helps you maintain a more positive relationship with the grandparents even when you’re setting out firm rules concerning the care of your baby.
The relationship between your child and their grandparents can be truly magical and enriching for your baby. However, you’re the parent and it’s important to guide it with what you think is best for your child, by laying the ground for healthy bonds with the grandparents. At the same time, be aware your parents and/or in-laws might be navigating an uncertain landscape themselves, especially if they’re first-time grandparents. Nevertheless, by encouraging direct communication, clarifying the essential considerations, and bringing it back to your baby’s welfare, you can create a healthy environment with rich relationships with the extended family for your baby.
Name: Jacqueline Coombe
Author’s Bio: Jacqueline Coombe has been a prolific reader since childhood, and now channels her love of the written word into writing content on a range of topics from business, marketing and finance to travel and lifestyle. Jacqueline is also a Principal Consultant specialising in Search + Content Marketing at international digital marketing agency Webprofits.