To Parents: Don't Deprive Your Children of Grandparents

Make Sure You Have a Good Reason Before Cutting Off Contact

Grandfather reading with his grandson
Grandchildren deserve to have grandparents in their lives. FangXiaNuo / Getty Images

I've given advice to grandparents about avoiding family disputes that can lead to estrangement. I've warned grandparents to butt out, to observe boundaries, to apologize even if they aren't sure what they have done wrong. Today it's the parents' turn to be on the receiving end. Parents, if you are thinking of cutting ties with grandparents, make sure it's for a good reason, because grandchildren need grandparents.

Don't cut off the grandparents for one of these not-so-good reasons.

Because You Are Holding a Grudge

Perhaps you had problems with your parents when you were a teen or young adult. The arguments may have become heated, and your parents may have said things that they shouldn't have said, or otherwise used poor judgment. If your parents were coming from a place of love and concern, they should be forgiven and given a chance to be grandparents.

Because You're Still Taking Sides in a Marital Conflict

If your parents had marital difficulty when they were younger, you may have placed the blame on one or the other. If you are still punishing the parent that you perceive to have been in the wrong, it may be time for you to forgive. Your perception of what happened between your parents could be skewed, but even if it is accurate, a parent should not have to pay the price forever.

Because of a Conflict That Doesn't Involve the Grandchildren

I have heard some honest parents make admissions along these lines: "I still have problems with my mom, but she's a wonderful grandparent." Mature individuals are able to separate how they relate to their parents from how the parents perform in the grandparenting arena.

They don't deprive their children of grandparents just because they occasionally clash with their parents.

All family relationships have their particular pitfalls. In spite of all the noise about mother-in-laws, relationships between mothers and daughters can be particularly fraught. 

Because of Differing Values

Perhaps you and your parents have differing religious beliefs.

Your relationship might be smoother if you shared your faith, but grandparents can play important roles in interfaith families. A greater understanding of different religions can be the outcome.

Politics is another area that is ripe to create conflict. If you have political differences with your parents, adopt strategies to deal with them. You may have to temporarily remove the topic of politics from the table.

Perhaps you and your parents differ in basic outlook on life. Your parents may still be wonderful grandparents. If necessary, ask your parents to avoid discussing controversial topics with the children, at least until they are older.

Because of Generational Differences

Some conflicts arise simply because of differences in the generations. The so-called generation gap can arise from very real differences in life experiences. Trying to see the world through the lens of a different generation can help to bridge the generation gap

If you don't always agree with the way your parents act as grandparents, that can sometimes be attributed to the world they grew up in. Generational differences can greatly influence grandparenting styles, as well as other attitudes. Baby boomer grandparents, for example, are sometimes criticized as being uninvolved grandparents, because they tend to lead active lives and pursue other interests.


So That You Can Manipulate Your Parents

Very few people will cop to this one, and it happens rarely. Still, some parents withhold their children from grandparents in order to get something that they want. Parents may threaten to cut off grandparents' access to their grandchildren, or they can use the promise of increased contact as a carrot. This can be done overtly or subtly, but it's unacceptable in any context.

The bottom line is that human relationships are complex, and few of us get them right all of the time. Even if they are somewhat flawed individuals, grandparents can enrich your children's lives and also possibly help you out in times of need. Of course, you will want to oversee the relationship, just as you oversee all aspects of your children's upbringing. And you don't have to include the grandparents in every activity.

 But I firmly believe that grandparenting brings out the best in most individuals. Give your parents a chance to rise to the role.