By Ranu Boppana, MD
Dealing with Overbearing Grandparents
“How do I deal with grandparents who don't
respect my views regarding my children?”
Parents and grandparents often have differing views
that can be even more apparent in families who have acculturated to
a new culture, language, lifestyle and way of doing things. Some South
Asians in America take on a more Western lifestyle and ideology than
their parents might have; others have become even more traditional.
Struggles occur when the two generations have acculturated differently.
Problems might arise if you feel that your differences are not respected.
The first grandchild
is a new test of the acculturation process as well as a test of the
relationship between parents and children as they become grandparents
and parents. If conflicts have existed in the past, this transition
will be more difficult. The history of how other milestones, such
as your shaadi (wedding), were navigated will factor into the outcome of this
Step One: Talk to your spouse
You and your spouse might disagree about how to approach
your child’s grandparents. However, it is important to be on
the same page with your partner. Talk to your spouse and try to understand
how he feels about the situation. This is particularly important if
you’re having difficulties with his parents. Spouses can have
different experiences and cultural views when coming into a marriage.
The difference is even more pronounced in an ethnically-mixed marriage.
As you begin raising a child together, you might need to discuss the
role and input of grandparents.
Step Two: Consider your parents' point of view
Also consider the situations and external factors
that trigger the most problems. Are you relying on the help and support
of your parents or in-laws but at the same time don’t want their
input? Are they bored when away from their friends and activities?
Are they overwhelmed with the energy required to care for a young
child? Has child rearing changed so significantly from when they raised
you or your spouse that they feel lost? Do they feel disrespected
or unappreciated? Would they like to see you and their grandchildren
more often than is possible? Are they worrying about judgment from
their peers? Are there certain aspects of grandparenting that they
enjoy more than others? Do they expect to overindulge your children
without ever setting limits, making it difficult for you to discipline
Think about what
creates the most challenging situations for you and whether this can
be modified. Remember that parents and grandparents do not necessarily
need to interact with children in exactly the same way. A child can
understand that there are different rules at dadaji’s (grandfather)
house than there are at home without too much difficulty.
Step Three: Talk it out
Talk to your parents or in-laws about their feelings and ask about
their experiences while raising you or your spouse. What did they
envision becoming a grandparent would mean? In South Asian cultures,
becoming a nana or nani can be a major milestone, resulting in changes
in personality and outlook that you may not have anticipated. Let
them know how much you value having them in your child’s life.
Consider that their interference is probably well-meant and not intended
to disrespect you. Explain what is important to you and why you feel
that way, as well as how things may be different now for you and your
child. This should lead to better understanding, while relieving most
Occasionally, grandparents can create
problems for families and it becomes necessary to establish boundaries.
Most important, however, is the welfare of your children and nuclear
family and its up to you to set the rules and guidelines. If it becomes
overwhelming, don’t be afraid to seek help in the form of a
parenting group or counseling.
Ranu Boppana, MD is an Adult and Child Psychiatrist
in private practice in New York City. She was formerly a Consulting
Psychiatrist at the Queens Child Guidance Center, Asian Outreach Clinic,
where she treated hundreds of South Asian families.
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