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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 situation.

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.

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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 your children?

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 tensions.


Check out our Parenting advice on:

Teaching our Children their Native Tongue: The Benefits and Best Practices

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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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