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View From The Middle: Empowering a Great Relationship Between Your Child and Your Parents


The relationship between child and grandparent isn't the first thing that comes to mind when the subject of family dysfunction pops up in conversation. Nor should it - rare is the grandparent who doesn't melt and haul out their VISA card at the very sight of their grandchildren, so what could possibly go wrong? In a word, plenty. Take your eye off this bouncing ball and there are any number of things that can go south, and most of them will be your fault.

The rules in this arena are few and far between, as the love between a child and a grandparent is among the purest and agenda-less of all family ties. At least, until parents with an agenda get in the way. The pothole in this normally happy road opens wide and deep when moms and dads use their parents as babysitters first and foremost, rather than facilitating quality time outside of their own needs. The occasional sleepover to accommodate date night for mom and dad is normal and expected, and some grandparents actually encourage it to an extent where the line between quality and convenience blurs. But when the call comes a bit too often and the grandparents sense an agenda, the child is suddenly part of an emotional triangle they can't possibly understand. And while it is rare for grandparents to allow such a dynamic to affect treatment or affection where the child is concerned, the risk is that the child will begin to look at them in the same way - a place they are parked while mom and dad go out. So rather than interactive activities and outings, the default pastime becomes video games and DVDs, usually with grandma and grandpa in the other room watching Dancing With The Stars.

Occasionally the reverse problem happens, where grandparents don't seem to desire or at least understand the potential for a close bond with their grandchildren. And because parents sense this and usually resent it, the response is to often a willingness to let the gap exist and then fester. But with emotional distance come the loss of an irretrievable opportunity to fully experience what most consider one of life's most rewarding of relationships, both for the grandparents and the child. And because the clock is ticking, lost years that would otherwise form the foundation of a lifelong bond are gone forever, and no matter how sincere the mending effort later, the only sure thing is a compromise to all parties. Too often this doesn't become real until the family is gathered around a headstone wondering why their child doesn't seem to grasp the gravity of the moment. Because it is a moment the parents have unwittingly created, and is suddenly beyond their ability to ever again influence.

It doesn't matter why, or who is at fault. Barring extreme circumstances, without variance it remains the responsibility of parents to ensure that their child is exposed to quality time with their grandparents. Because only parents understand the context of the word "quality" where their child is concerned, at least in terms of the child's experience. Old agendas mean nothing. The only variable in this equation is the child's safety and their exposure to positive behaviors. Beyond that, allow your parents the eternal right to spoil your children rotten, with the knowledge that as long as your own moral compass and parental sensibilities are on solid ground, there is little your parents can do to warp your child's view of the world. The worst that usually happens is a stomach ache from too much ice cream.


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