How does one match expectations for grandparents with their adult children about frequency and duration of visits with their grandchildren?
Like all relationships, the dynamic between generations is complicated and only becomes more so as new members are added, i.e., sons-in-law, daughters-in-law and grandchildren. However, complicated doesn’t have to mean negative, but communication and healthy boundaries are a must.
How much is the right amount will vary tremendously from family to family, but again communication is the key. Since couples rarely discuss how they intend to divide their time with extended families before the arrival of children they may find themselves in uncharted territory when this conflict arises. But when the time comes, parents need to have honest conversations with each other about extended family visits and what works best for them. Then, even more challenging at times, they must have frank discussions with in-laws about the conclusions reached after those conversations.
Next, and here comes the really hard part, they need to be willing to compromise so that everyone’s voice is heard and some attempt is made to share experiences throughout the year. Figuring out a happy medium will be the goal in all of these situations.
Knowing grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins is a great gift to children. Parents have a responsibility to their parents as well as an obligation to their children to work to foster healthy relationships with their extended family – if time, money and distance allow.
Finally, I would encourage grandparents to put their emphasis on the quality of time that is spent with their grandchildren rather than the quantity. With my own granddaughter, who lives for part of the year in Italy, I try to appreciate the times when we are together and be grateful for modern technology which allows us to connect regularly on Facetime when there is a great geographic distance between us. I also try not to get stuck on a vision of spending certain days of the year (holidays) together, but instead look forward to and enjoy the times we can be together.
As my mother used to say to me, “We are always together in spirit.”