Avoiding Obvious Favouritism as a Grandparent: A Case Study
For many people, some of their fondest childhood memories include their grandparents. Grandparents have a way of making children feel that they are the most special people in the world—mostly because, to their grandparents, they often are.
While children usually enjoy warm relationships with their grandparents, it is not uncommon for grandparents to experience different levels of closeness with each of their grandchildren. It is normally not a matter of loving one child more than another, but simply having more in common or having a greater amount of contact with some grandchildren than with others.
One Grandmother’s StorySandra has four grandchildren and all of them are dear to her. She admits to feeling closer to the two youngest children, mostly because her views on child-rearing are more in line with those of their mothers, so she needn’t worry that she will say or do something that is in conflict with what their parents are teaching them. “I don’t have to be afraid that I will offend or confuse either the child or the grandchild,” says Sandra.
Avoiding Hurt FeelingsIn Sandra’s family, all four of the grandchildren feel loved, and none of them lack for attention from their grandparents. The extended family gets together every Sunday, and those who live the closest typically see their grandparents a few extra times each week, helping to cement their bond. Sandra is confident that the two oldest grandchildren never feel hurt or even sense that there is any difference in how their grandmother responds to them versus their younger cousins. Sandra is openly affectionate with all of her children and grandchildren, so each of them is aware of the special place they hold in her heart. “I am a very demonstrative person. Very.”
As the children get older, things might change, but for now, the fact that the older two have very different needs than the babies makes it easy to avoid conflicts or hurt feelings. When asked what steps she takes to assure that all of the grandchildren feel loved and valued, Sandra replied, “The two older girls are the ones that take up my mental time. The babies are mostly physical nurturing.”
Gifts and AttentionMany grandparents enjoy indulging their grandchildren with both attention and material things, and Sandra is no different. When asked, she replied, “Indulgence is a matter of perspective, I guess. I don’t go in debt to buy things and I don’t buy it if I think the parents can afford it. I don’t go in debt at all for gifts—that makes no fiscal sense—but if it is in my power to do it and its needed, then they don’t even have to ask. I try to be discerning and gracious because my kids are actually very appreciative and they don’t ‘expect’ things from us even though they know we'll give it if they really need it. We have a great balance going that works for us. I believe love is a verb and I show my love not just in words, but in deeds.”
Sandra’s generous attitude is admirable, and while she doesn’t keep track to be certain that she spends equally on all of her grandchildren, she expresses confidence that her giving is doled out evenly and equitably. She is sure that her children would agree.
Words of WisdomBecause each grown child and every grandchild has their own unique personality, it seems reasonable to assume that most grandparents, if they were to be completely honest, would say that they feel a greater kinship with some of their grandkids than with others. Seasoned grandparents often have sage advice for those just embarking on that chapter of their lives, so Sandra was asked to consider what she might say to other grandparents.
Sandra, who has been a grandmother for over ten years, has this to offer: “Take yourself out of the equation and think about how this affects the kids. Remember love is not so much an emotion as it is a choice that requires discipline. Discipline yourself and after a while you'll be amazed to find that you heart follows.”