Now you’re a parent, do you get on better with your own parents?

Has your relationship with your parents improved or worsened since you had children? carried out a survey and now explores the factors behind the results.

Has your relationship with your parents improved or worsened since you had children? carried out a survey and now explores the factors behind the results.

Our survey said…
More than half (52%) of working mums polled said their relationship with their own parents had improved since they’d had children themselves.  But a sizeable minority – nearly a quarter (24%) – said they believed relations with their own parents had worsened once they’d become parents themselves.  More than one fifth (21%) told the survey their relationship had stayed the same as before.

Why does a relationship improve once you make your parents grandparents?
”A lot depends on the relationship you had with your mother, and whether your parenting style is similar to hers,” says child psychologist Dr Amanda Gummer.  ”If so, you can feel closer and benefit from her support and advice as you both share a similar approach.”
Your own view towards your parents can be coloured by your own upbringing, but once you’re raising your own offspring you can get a deeper insight into the difficulties and dilemmas of child-rearing.  You realise adults don’t have it easy when it comes to being parents, because you’re now on the same side of the fence as them.  Your new perspective can bring about a more forgiving attitude towards your own parents if you had previously harboured personal criticism towards them for aspects of your own childhood.  You now know from personal experience what it’s like to feel responsible for a child or teenager and the anxiety involved in trying to do the right thing for your child.

A worse relationship? Why?
A clash of generations and modern circumstances which has seen more women returning to work once their children are born can be responsible for some tension between parents and grandparents.  ”If it’s very different, i.e. you are a working parent and your mother was a stay at home mum, there can be issues where either person can feel judged or resentful,” warns Dr Gummer.  ”Maybe your mother wishes she could have developed her career like you are doing, or maybe you wish you didn’t have to work and could spend more time with your children.  In either case, communication and acceptance is important on both sides.”
Renewed resentment over their perceived upbringing may surface when adults become parents themselves.  New parents can be determined to raise their youngsters in a different way. ”This can be hard for grandparents to take,” says Dr Gummer.  But it is possible to prevent simmering tension. 
”You need to show your parents that you love them and acknowledge that they did their best when it came to raising you,” she said.  ”But tell them they brought you up a generation ago.  Things are different now.  There are different situations, different families and different children involved.  You need to tell them that what they did was not wrong, but this is how you want to do it.  They need to respect that and support you in that because you don’t want grandparents undermining the parents’ approach.”

Complications when grandparents carry out childcare
”If grandparents are involved in childcare, differences in priorities can arise and cause tension,” says Dr Gummer.  ”However, normally, having grandparents involved is beneficial for everyone and parents should enjoy the fact that the children have the opportunity to form close attachments with their grandparents – this will help the children feel grounded and understand their parents more.  The grandparents will benefit from increased stimulation and reduced social isolation as they get older and less agile.”
But rules need to be ironed out early on if grandparents are taking on a lot of the childcare.  Youngsters may be able to do certain things at home, but they’re not allowed to do so when they’re in grandad and granny’s house.  As long as the two approaches aren’t completely polarised, the children will be able to adapt easily if this is explained to them.   Work out beforehand guidelines on screen time, homework and food.
Top tip:  ”Remember that parents need to have a relationship with their own parents outside the grandparent-grandchild one,” advises Dr Gummer.  Get a babysitter and make arrangements to spend time with your own parents away from the children.

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