When Grandparents Give Parents Unwanted Advice
Grandparents can be a source of invaluable advice and support. In addition to raising their own kids, they had years of experience dealing with all the things that help a family run smoothly. Ideally, that would mean that if you have a problem, you could ask one of your baby's grandparents and get some useful advice.
If your baby's grandparents are having a hard time understanding how parenting, medical, and safety advice have changed, consider inviting them to one of your baby's visits to his pediatrician. That way, they can hear that advice firsthand, ask questions, and learn to better support your methods of raising your baby.
Unfortunately, not every family is in such an ideal situation. Instead of getting helpful advice, you and your partner might be criticized for the way that you are doing things. Or you may get advice that goes against the way that you have chosen to raise your children, leading to hard feelings when you decide not to follow it. Understanding why this happens and trying to avoid miscommunications can help to support a healthy relationship between your own family and all of the grandparents.
Times Have Changed
Parenting advice has changed a lot over the years. There was a time when doctors actively discouraged mothers from breastfeeding and it was recommended that you not hold your baby very much because it might spoil him. Parents also were advised to start solid foods and table foods a lot earlier than we do now. Even childproofing, car seats, and other safety measures weren't widely supported when many of today's new parents were kids.
Because today's grandparents raised their children using different advice, it is not surprising that their recommendations would be a little different from the methods you are now using. Is your two-month-old not sleeping through the night? Then don't be surprised if a grandparent recommends feeding him some cereal to help him sleep. Or maybe you will be told that your baby doesn't need to breastfeed or that she should be put to sleep on her stomach.
Although trying to explain that those things aren't recommended anymore can be helpful, it is hard to do this without making grandparents feel that they did things wrong. After all, those methods likely worked for them and they were following the advice of the time. Instead of dismissing or criticizing a grandparent's advice, you should try to explain why recommendations have changed—for example, that a baby who sleeps on her stomach is at higher risk for SIDS.
Don't always assume that problems with grandparents are going to come from the in-laws. Your partner may need the most help and support dealing with her own parents if she doesn't have a healthy relationship with them or they don't communicate well.
New parents are often at least a little insecure about the way they are doing things with their baby. Are you feeding him enough? Is he as safe and healthy as he should be? Is he growing and developing normally? These are just a few of the things that new parents question about themselves and their baby. With this built-in insecurity, it is not hard to see how any advice or comments from a grandparent could be seen as criticism. And while they really may be criticizing you—that will depend on their personalities and your relationship with them—it's also possible that they are just trying to be helpful. Misunderstandings can cause even further harm to a poor relationship. Often, what a grandparent sees as being helpful might be viewed by a new parent as meddling. Or an idea for new ways to do things might be seen as criticism even when the grandparent is really just trying to help you in this time of need. Talk to them about how their comments are making you and your partner feel. This may help to get them to give advice differently, so that it isn't seen as being critical.
There will be times when any advice from a grandparent, or anyone else, is going to be unwelcome. In the first few days and weeks, many new parents need time to adjust to and bond with their baby. Too much advice at this time, especially when it is not asked for, will likely be unwanted.
When faced with a grandparent who is offering unwanted advice, a father's primary job will be to support his baby's mother. This may mean reassuring her that she is doing a great job or actually telling a grandparent to back off. Particularly when the criticism is coming from your own parents, stepping in early to have a talk about things can help to avoid hard feelings down the road.
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From The Everything Father's First Year Book Copyright © 2005, F+W Publications, Inc. Used by permission of Adams Media, an F+W Publications Company. All rights reserved.
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