I had a client recently who wanted to know if she could talk about her parents and in-laws with me. I told her that all aspects of our lives affect our children, so of course she could. She told me she had an “overbearing mother and sister” who wanted to dote on her children the whole time she was visiting. As a result of the strained relationship she has with her mother, she restricts visits to special occasions only. Also, she said her parents and in-laws are at odds, so family activities have to be planned to avoid the two sets of parents being in the same room.
I see that a big part of my role as a parenting coach is to offer what I believe a child’s perspective might be. I like to be able to give children a voice. I explained to my client that the people who love our children the most are their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. You might find excellent child care providers but, in terms of the level of love they have for your children, nothing can compare. One thing we can never provide too much of is love. We can buy them more clothes and toys than they possibly need but it’s impossible to provide them with more love than they need. The more people we include in our children’s lives that love and care for them, the better off they are.
I offered my client the perspective that the issues she has with her mother and sister are among the three of them and have nothing to do with her children. Why are they made to pay the price? They are missing out on an enormous amount of love and caring that her family has to offer her children. She said she had never looked at it that way. Many children grow up never knowing their grandparents. I’m one of them. I always envied my friends whose grandparents were part of their lives. A couple of close friends had grandmothers living within walking distance and we would often go together to visit. I remember those visits vividly and they’re a big part of my childhood memories.
Although my parents live ten hours away, we always made sure they were a big part of our children’s lives. My father passed away a few years ago, so I am so thankful my children have memories of the times they spent with him. They even flew up north a few times on their own to visit, which was special for all of us. My mother has taken a huge part in my children’s lives, even from a distance. My husband’s family lives across the country, so visits with them haven’t been as frequent, but there have been enough to provide our children with a lot of treasured memories.
Let’s be positive role models to our children and put aside our differences with our parents or other relatives so our children can be enriched by the love and caring of their extended family.
By Barbara Desmarais