Working Parents' Dilemma: My Child Wants To Be Only With Grandparents

Grandparents supporting parents with childcare is a blessing, especially for those who go out to work. But, what if, with time, the child wants to be only with grandparents!

By Jasmine Kaur

Working Parents' Dilemma: My Child Wants To Be Only With Grandparents

My five-year-old daughter, Zina, wanted to have a candy. However, she had already eaten two; so I refused. Zina began crying, but I did not relent.

Sobbing, Zina ran to my mother-in-law, who was sleeping in her room. After a while, I saw Zina coming out with a candy.

Although this annoyed me, I resisted my urge to intervene in Zina's presence. Later that day, I went and spoke to my mother-in-law and explained to her why what she did wasn't right.

She understood my point, but I knew that it would take some time for her to be on the same page with me.

If your parents or in-laws are taking care of your child, you would be familiar with this scene.

At times, you may feel upset and not agree with the way grandparents are bringing up your child. However, you should try to understand the reasons and work with them and your child to make sure that the bond continues to be strong.

Why is my child closer to her grandparents?

There are a number of reasons why your child may feel more connected with her grandparents. It could be that she finds that her grandparents are:

  • More permissive
  • Spending more time with her
  • Better tuned to her needs

When your child feels emotionally closer to grandparents, it’s because they have become her ‘secure base’.

What is a secure base?

A caregiver who is responsible for providing your child with a sense of security can be called a 'secure base'. However, it doesn't mean that your child doesn’t love you, but that, right now, someone else is taking care of him, and this makes him feel more connected to them.

Does my child even need me?

The answer is an unequivocal, ‘Yes’. Your child needs you because grandparents don’t have the energy to take care of your little one like you. Also, most of the time, grandparents do not enforce rules as firmly as you would. Children need structure and discipline, and no one is more suited than you to provide that. Moreover, being the parent, it is your responsibility to provide your child with the love and attention she needs.

How can I forge a stronger bond with my child?

Focus on connecting with your child by spending more quality time with him. You should also talk to your parents and in-laws about your concerns, so that all of you are in agreement and don't compete with each other to get the child's affection.

How do I spend quality time with my child?

Remember, quality time isn't about how much time you spend with your child, but how you spend it with her. So, try to make sure that you are paying attention and being responsive, in any activity that you choose to do together. It would be a good idea to try doing activities that your child is unlikely to do with her grandparents. For example, if you cook after you come home from work, you could call your child into the kitchen and teach him about the ingredients. Or if he is into crafts, both of you can spend time making things together. It is important to make your child feel that you are still there and that he can trust you.

Here are some tips to help you bond better with your child:

  1. Ask your child about her day and share what happened with you while you were away.
  2. Listen attentively when your child talks to you.
  3. Come up with a bedtime ritual like sharing each other's experiences or reading a story together.
  4. Shower your child with hugs and kisses.
  5. Show interest in what your child likes to do, such as engaging in conversations or some other activity.
  6. Be there for your child when she needs your support.
  7. Spend some time outside together.

Also, it’s important that you don’t pressurise your child, even unintentionally, to bond with you. So, even if you feel sad about your child being more emotionally connected with her grandparents, try to ensure that you don't reveal it to her.

How can I make grandparents understand my parenting techniques and get them to be on my side?

Many parents struggle with convincing grandparents to follow the same parenting techniques as them. Here is how you can convince grandparents to be on your side:

  • Don’t tell them what to do: Most of us do not enjoy being told what to do, especially when we are not given a reason. The same is true for grandparents too. Do not tell them what to do or what not to. Instead, tell them about the qualities you want your child to develop. Then, you can explain how following certain rules will help achieve that outcome.
  • Include them in decision-making: Include grandparents in discussions and ask them to think about various ways they can respond to your child in different situations. For example, ask them what they would do if he is crying because he wants some more candy, but has had enough already. They might come up with creative solutions like distracting the child with a captivating story or game. Grandparents shouldn’t feel that you are stopping them from bonding with their grandchild.
  • Explain with examples: You can use instances of your child’s misbehaviour to help grandparents understand the reasons behind enforcing certain rules. For example, if she throws a tantrum when asked to switch off the TV, you can explain the rationale behind the ‘limited screen time’ rule.
  • Don’t try to control their every move: Understand that you will need to give grandparents some leeway when it comes to raising your child. To expect them to rigidly adhere to your rules might be a little too much.
  • Talk to other parents: Sometimes, when we are too closely involved in a situation, we may fail to see the obvious solutions. In such cases, it helps to talk to someone from outside, like other parents, and listen to their suggestions. Remember, you are not the only one facing such struggles. 

You love your child and want what’s best for him. So, keep expressing your love through your actions and words, and your child will eventually respond in a similar manner. This way you can create a stronger bond with your child over time. And, remember, that, like you, your child's grandparents also love him and want to be with him.

About the author:

Written by Jasmine Kaur on 1 January 2019.

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