Why clear boundaries are important to families
How would you feel if you received this message shortly before becoming a grandparent?
“Hi everyone! Just wanted to let you know a couple of things we’ve decided about the first couple weeks after we bring home the baby. We want to have some time alone to bond with him, so we’ll let you know when we are ready for visitors. When that time comes, we ask that you be tested for Covid before visiting, and wash your hands before holding the baby. Also, no kissing him! Thanks for understanding.”
A text message like this lit up the message boards at Gransnet, and there were two distinct camps in the responses. A very vocal group was appalled that the mom-to-be had made such strict rules and conveyed them by text message to a large group of family and friends, instead of having a conversation with the grandparents-to-be. Another segment of the responders applauded her for being clear and direct with what she felt were important boundaries, and advised the grandmother to abide by the rules.
Clear boundaries in families can help you avoid ending up featured in Dear Abby. The advice columns are full of letters from parents seeking help about grandparents crossing boundaries, and letters from grandparents who don’t know what they’ve done to upset their adult children. The young mother whose text message was shared on Gransnet was doing what all parents should: stating clearly what her boundaries were.
Was a text message the best way to do that? For her, it clearly was. Maybe she didn’t want the pushback she knew she’d get in a conversation. Maybe she felt it was most diplomatic to make it clear everyone was getting the same rules and treatment. Maybe texting is just her preferred method of communication. For the grandparents, this is one of many, many instances where their way of handling a situation will be different than the way their adult children handle it. Different, not better or worse. This is the first rule of healthy grandparent boundaries: not judging what those boundaries are or how they are communicated.
New parents have so many things to figure out! Some of them don’t talk to grandparents about boundaries because they are still learning to see themselves as competent adults. Others just don’t know how to clearly communicate their boundaries. Often, it’s because they are afraid of upsetting their own parents or in-laws. They don’t express that they wish grandparents wouldn’t drop by so often/feed their kids junk food/buy so many toys because they know that grandparents are important. They don’t want to say something that might be misunderstood as criticism. How nice it would be if grandparents signaled their willingness to respect parent boundaries by initiating the conversation and asking what those boundaries are!
If there are no clear boundaries in your family, it’s likely that your grandchild’s parents wish there were. Why not be the one to start the conversation? New Grandparent Essentials includes a guided dialog to have with new parents about many of the hot spots of child rearing. Not a new grandparent? It’s never too late to improve your family’s communication. Clear boundaries are important to the health of families, and communication is the only way to know what they are before you bounce up against one.
If real estate comes down to location, location, location, having healthy family boundaries comes down to communication, communication, communication. Just keep in mind that some boundaries can be blurry as parents get used to their new role, and all boundaries can move with time. Making yourself open to communicating on the parents’ terms can help navigate those changes and work through any misunderstanding caused by unclear or changing boundaries. And that, my dear grandparents, will make your time with your grandchildren much more rewarding.
Want help creating clear boundaries with your family? See how New Grandparent Essentials can help you.
Including 40 ideas for things to mail to your grandchildren!
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I consider myself incredibly fortunate to be a grandparent in the digital age. Don’t you? The tools we have for building relationships with our grandchildren are so far beyond what our parents had! Instantly shareable pictures, video chat, texting—they all add so much to our interactions with our grandkids, especially for long-distance grandparents. But even if you live in the same town as your grandchildren, you’ll want to keep this post bookmarked. It’s full of ways to make the simple act of sending a letter into something that will make your grandchild feel special.
There are three keys to making letters to grandchildren more fun, and none of them involve writing skill! You just need to think about the outside, the inside, and the surprise. What you write is almost unimportant if you use these three things to tailor your letter to your grandchild.
Never underestimate the power of an exciting looking envelope. Use a bright color, or decorate a white envelope with a sticker or two. Get some fun stamps: I send letters to my grandkids with Sesame Street postage stamps I got at USPS.com. The UK Royal Mail site has stamps with Marvel characters among others that would appeal to children. Canada’s pickings are slimmer, but stamps change regularly, so keep checking!
Get some stationery that ties into an interest of your grandchild. Notecards can be found with all sorts of images. Does your granddaughter love dinosaurs? Get some dinosaur cards to send her notes on. Is your grandson going through a building phase? Print pictures of construction equipment and write on the backs. Amazon has all sorts of fun options. I’ve collected a couple of my favorites and are showing them below—just click on any image to learn more. I’m a fan of the Sanrio stationery sets, which have several characters with wide appeal.
Fun stationery for letters to grandchildren from Amazon
Not every letter to your grandchild needs to have a surprise inside, but there are so many fun things to send grandkids in the mail that it’s a shame not to include one! This doesn’t need to cost any money; many of the ideas to mail to grandchildren are things you can make or gather yourself. Here’s a list of 40 things that will fit in a regular envelope, with a few clickable images to make shopping easy.
40 Ideas for Things to Mail to Your Grandchildren