When should grandparents speak up if they are worried about their grandchild’s health or safety?
It’s normal to sometimes worry about our grandchildren. That’s what we do when there is someone we love!
But what do you do if you are truly worried about their health or safety, and you can’t decide whether to speak up? Being an interfering grandparent can carry a high price, and it may not be one you want to pay. Before you start a conversation with your grandchild’s parents, here are some things to consider.
First, take your relationship out of the equation. If this were an acquaintance’s child, would you tell them they need to make their child wear a helmet when they are on their bike? If the answer is no, then you probably shouldn’t say anything.
If it is yes, then you have to consider if this is an issue worth making waves about. No matter how solid your relationship with your adult children is, your criticism will be hard for them to take. While you may view speaking up as concern, telling your son you don’t think it’s safe for the kids to play in the front yard unsupervised is a criticism of his parenting choices.
Do your research
If you are worried that your grandchild will choke on the grapes his dad doesn’t cut up or that your daughter will smoother the baby she is co-sleeping with, do some research from reputable sources to find out if your concerns are valid.
Sometimes you will find that the facts will put your mind at ease. For example, the risk of a child being kidnapped by a stranger is extremely low, and co-sleeping is now recommended.
Sometimes the facts bear out your concerns. Whole grapes are a choking hazard. If this is the case, you may want to speak up. If you do, tread carefully and consider using the following tactics.
Try to separate the conversation from the issue you are worried about. Telling your son he’s putting his child at risk while he’s feeding him grapes will feel far more critical than starting a conversation about choking while you are watching the kids play.
Share the research without commentary. “Did you know (fill in the blank)? I just read an article that talked about it.” Point them to websites or even Instagram accounts that share educational information about child safety. (I’ve included some suggestions at the bottom of this article.)
Find a time when the grandkids aren’t present. Parents will be far more receptive and you can have a more open conversation.
Don’t do all the talking. Make sure you leave room for your adult child to speak, and listen to what they have to say.
Don’t harp on it. If you show your concern by offering solid information, it’s now up to the parent to decide if their risk tolerance merits changing their behavior. Everyone’s tolerance is different, and you don’t get to control how they parent.
Of course, you do get to control how you react when you are on your turf. You can insist on helmet-wearing, you can cut up the grapes, you can make your front yard off-limits without supervision.
The Exception to the Above
If you are worried that your grandchild is being abused or neglected, you must step in.
If you know or suspect any of the following, please be your grandchild’s advocate and contact authorities:
I hope none of our readers ever need this information, but if you do, this grandmother’s perspective may help you: She shared that she was moved to action by imagining a future conversation with her grandchild. She couldn’t bear the idea that he might someday ask her why she didn’t speak up when she was witnessing the abuse he was being subjected to. Her grown children acted predictably, and she lost all contact with them and her grandson. But she knows that she did the right thing by stepping in to protect him when he couldn’t protect himself.
Here are some great websites that share child safety information:
Do you know of other good sources of information? Please share them in the comments!