Lesson 6 of 7 - learn to parent effectively

Are Your Kids' Grandparents Family Assets or Stressors?

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

colorbar.gif (1095 bytes)

The Web address of this article is http://sfhelp.org/parent/gp.htm

Updated  04/04/2014

      Clicking underlined links here will open a new window. Other links will open  an informational popup, so please turn off your browser's popup blocker or allow popups from this nonprofit Web site. If your playback device doesn't support Javascript, the popups may not display. Follow underlined links after finishing this article to avoid getting lost.

      This is one of a series of articles for parents on how to nurture kids effectively over two decades while filling your own needs well enough. It proposes (a) how to evaluate whether your parents (your kids' grandparents) enhance or reduce your family's nurturance level,. and (b) if they reduce it, what can you (parents) do?

      This two-part YouTube video summarizes key traits of a healthy ("high nurturance") family. The video mentions eight self-improvement lessons in this site - I've simplified that to seven.:

       This article continues on page 2 for people in a stepfamily. This page assumes you're familiar with...

  • the intro to this nonprofit Web site and the premises underlying it 

  • self-improvement Lessons 1 thru 6 (or 7 if you're a stepfamily)

  • traits of a high-nurturance ("functional") family

  • signs of ancestral wounds and ignorance in your family tree

  • typical kids' normal developmental needs, and...

  • this overview of the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle


      Premise - the main purpose of any family (like yours) is to fill key short and long-term needs of its members - i.e. to nurture. Every child is influenced by living and dead grandparents - genetically, psychologically, logistically, and financially. The nurturing role grandparents play has been significantly changed by our cultural shift from close rural-community life to geographically-scattered, urban extended (multigenerational) families.

      The nurturing impact grandparents, aunts, and uncles have on a young child depends on variables like these:

  • the adults' wholistic health, knowledge, and awareness (poor to very good)

  • how well grandparents can form healthy psychological bonds (poor > good)

  • the relationship between grandparents and their adult kids (unbonded > stressful > loving)

  • grandparents' physical health (unstable/poor > stable/fine)

  • how spiritual or religious the seniors are (no faith > deep faith)

  • how motivated grandparents are to nurture their kids and grandkids (low > high)

  • grandparents' and grandkids' ages, (young > old) and the number of living grandkids (one > many)

  • The stability of your extended family (very chaotic > very stable)

  • the ethnic heritage and traditions of the grandparents

  • the frequency of contact between kids and grandparents (none > often)

  • the geographic closeness of grandparents to grandkids (close > distant)

  • parents' needs for psychological and/or financial support from their own parents (low > high)

  • how grandparents and their adult kids problem-solve (ineffective > effective)

  • how ready grandparents' kids are to care for a child (not ready > well-prepared)

  • whether kids live in an intact or divorcing biofamily or a stepfamily

The mix of these variables determines whether grandparents have a harmful, neutral, or nourishing impact on minor grandkids and their parents. Have you ever considered how the grandparents in your family affect how well you parents and kids get your needs met?

      Typical grandparents have several decades' more life experience to draw on than their adult kids. If they are wholistically healthy and knowledgeable. they can support and counsel their adult kids wisely on how to best raise their grandkids.

      If seniors are wounded and unaware (which is common), their behavior and attitudes can promote significant shame, guilt, hurt, anger, and frustration in their grown kids and grandkids. If grandparents were abused or neglected as kids, they risk unconsciously passing on harmful parenting values - e.g. disciplining to punish (cause pain), vs. to instruct, or "children should be seen, not heard."  


      To judge whether the grandparents in your family are wounding or nurturing your young people, see which of these traits are true. Enter the initials of each living or dead grandparent above the columns on the right. If the senior is dead, describe their traits when alive. Use Yes, No, ?, or NA (not applicable). This is not about blame, it's about discovery, awareness. and protection.

      For best results, print this profile, get quiet and undistracted, and take your time filling it out. Option - journal your thoughts and feelings as you do this. Is your true Self guiding you now? If not, expect distorted results.

Grandparent Trait

Grew up in a high-nurturance family        
Shows few or no symptoms of being a Grown Wounded Child (GWC) - (Lesson 1)        
Is clearly able to bond and exchange genuine love with other people        
Steadily provides unconditional love to each adult child and grandchild        
Knows the difference between surface needs and primary needs        
Can name most normal developmental needs of typical minor kids        
Takes a genuine and appropriate interest in the welfare of each grandchild        
Is physically affectionate with their grown kids and grandkids in appropriate ways        
Genuinely enjoys spending time with each grandchild        
Listens empathically to each adult child and grandchild        
Models and teaches effective communication with all other family adults and kids (Lesson 2)        
Knows how to spot and resolve significant loyalty conflicts        
Knows how to spot and resolve divisive relationship triangles        
Knows how to deal with parenting values conflicts with their adult kids        
Models and teaches healthy grieving with other family members        
Models and promotes healthy spirituality (vs. religion)        
Models and teaches healthy relationship skills with adults and kids        
Does not keep or promote family secrets        
Consistently respects the boundaries of each adult child  and grandkids        
Willingly shares information about their own childhood and ancestors        
Is not now, nor ever has been, addicted to anything or anyone        
Is not financially or socially dependent on their adult child/ren.        
Is clearly not codependent on an adult child or grandchild        
Consistently treats each grown child as a respected independent adult        
Is motivated to study and discuss Lesson 7 if you're a stepfamily        

Bottom line: rank the overall impact of your living and dead grandparents on your family system's functioning:

_  they're a great help in our parenting efforts

_  they don't significantly affect our parenting efforts

_  they cause our home and family significant stress  

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - what are you thinking and feeling? The more "Yes" answers you have above, the more likely it is that your kids' grandparents have been promoting a high-nurturance (functional) environment for you and your kids. Option - show this article to your seniors and discuss your ratings (above) with them.


      If one or more of your seniors causes you, your marriage, and/or your kids significant stress, you parents have many options to protect your kids from inheriting the [wounds + unawareness] cycle. Start by assessing yourself and your partner for wounds and unawareness (Lesson 1).  Then select from choices like these:

  • You and your partner discuss these options and agree on an action plan, as teammates. If your mate is a GWC (Grown Wounded Child) in denial, see this.

  • Discuss this overview of the [wounds + unawareness] cycle with the grandparents, and ask their help in guarding their grandkids from inheriting it.

  • If any family senior is a GWC, consider discussing that with them respectfully. Show them this and this, and invite them to assess for wounds for your kids' sakes. If they are wounded (ruled by false selves), expect seniors to resist, deny, excuse, attack, discount, or ignore your request. If you feel hesitant or guilty about confronting your parents, remind yourself that you're doing this to protect your kids from inheriting lethal psychological wounds.

  • If a grandparent is addicted to something (a symptom of psychological wounds and inner pain), you and your mate discuss and choose from these options.

  • If you have communication problems with one or more grandparents, see this and this. The best option is to invite your seniors to study Lesson 2 with you!

  • If a grandparent is dying or has died, _ discuss your family's grieving policy, and _ check each of your parents and kids for signs of incomplete grief. See Lesson 3.

  • If you need one or more seniors to change an attitude or behavior, identify what you need, and apply these ideas for resolving your problem/s.

  • avoid hinting, asking, or demanding that grandparents show more interest in - or more affection with - your kids. Doing so is a self-defeating ''be spontaneous!'' paradox.

  • If a grandparent clearly favors one grandchild over another, use a respectful ''I''-message (assertion) to teach them how that feels.

  • Note that these choices also apply to each co-parent and your kids' aunts, uncles, and mentors.


      This Lesson-6 article offers a way to judge whether each living or dead grandparent in your multi-generational family increases or decreases your family-system's nurturance level (functioning). The article suggests specific options for dealing with grandparents who may deplete the level. 

      Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your true Self, or ''someone else''?

If you're interested in stepfamily grandparents, continue with this.

 This article was very helpful  somewhat helpful  not helpful   

Share/Bookmark  Prior page  /  Lesson 6  /  Print page 


 site intro  /  course outline  /  site search  /  definitions  /  chat contact