How can I help my grandma
Family: How do grandma and grandpa behave correctly?
Mr. Berwanger, you are a psychologist and family therapist, what are the biggest mistakes grandparents can make?
Berwanger: The biggest mistake is teaching the parents. This relegates them back to the child position, believing that based on their own life experience, they will know better how to raise children. But this indirectly devalues the parents - also towards the grandchildren. That is why teaching parents to grandparents is an absolute no-go. This know-it-all is felt like a blow and leads to a distancing.
But how do I act as a grandma or grandpa when I see that something is really going wrong in bringing up my grandchildren?
Berwanger: For example, let's say grandparents find that their grandchildren watches too much TV or is allowed to play around with digital devices. Then those are fears. And it is precisely as such that it should be made available and formulated to the parents. First of all, the parents must ask: May I trust you with my care? Do you have an open ear for me? Then you should bring up the concern that you are afraid for the development of the child, for example, for his intelligence, if he sits in front of screens so much. The why should never be asked straight away.
Berwanger: Because why questions always cause the other person to find it difficult to explain. The charges are hidden. And behind charges are allegations. If I express my concerns as real concern for the child, the likelihood is much greater that the mother or father will tell me why the grandchild sits so much in front of the television or computer, for example. Sometimes the parents are just overwhelmed and don't know how to help each other. Then, as a grandma or grandpa, I can offer my help by asking: How can I relieve you? When can I be there for my grandson? I am not allowed to demand a perfect upbringing of my grandson. Grandparents should never behave as experts, because then they get into a position of power - and whoever plays power destroys relationships.
What Can Grandparents Do When Their Care Is Not Heard?
Berwanger: An important question that I hear very often in my practice. Then, with the help of friends or an expert, such as a counselor, the question should be investigated: What happened in the relationship with the parents? Where does this devaluation come from?
Where does she often come from?
Berwanger: The mother-in-law to daughter-in-law relationship is often the cause: Many mothers secretly think: It's my son, I raised him, it's my flesh and blood, so I have to come with him first, not his partner. But the hierarchy of love is different.
Grandparents rank third in the ranking of love
What rank does the mother hold with her son?
Berwanger: Grandparents rank third in the ranking of love. You have the bronze medal and that is a beautiful rank.
But not the first.
Berwanger: The partner should always come first. Then the children follow. That means, even with the parents, the children should not take first place. The children learn to become independent, have friends, go away and start their own families. When children come first, the great crisis of puberty is already programmed. Hence, the hierarchy of love is key to family wellbeing. That is why it is so important for the mother-in-law to say to her daughter-in-law: How nice that you are my son's wife - basically, even if that sounds old-fashioned, gives the relationship its blessing.
How much can grandma and grandpa spoil their grandchildren - are there limits?
Berwanger: Yes there is. For example, if grandparents bring loads of sweets with them every time they visit, or two or three new toys each time, even though the children's room is already overflowing, that's not okay. It is an emotional exploitation of the grandson.
But that's tough.
Berwanger: But as a grandparent I expect the shine in my grandson's eyes with my gifts, I expect his laughter. It's not about the material aspect of the grandparent-grandchildren relationship.
Grandma and Grandpa have time
What is it about, what makes this relationship so special?
Berwanger: Grandparents have what many parents don't: time. And what is most important: your kindness, your consolation. We live in a world where self-optimization is paramount. Grandparents have the important task of giving consolation to their grandchildren in the event of mistakes, weaknesses, or failure, to make it clear to him that this is not so bad now. It can happen, it will happen again. Your composure as well as your kindness is more important than ever.
But what to do if the grandson comes to grandma and grandpa with a wish that the parents do not want to fulfill? Take riding lessons as an example.
Berwanger: As grandparents, I always have to discuss such wishes with my parents. It is also not right to simply pay your grandchildren to pay for an instrument just because, as a grandma or grandpa, I am convinced that learning to play an instrument is part of a good upbringing. This cannot be done without parental permission. Especially since in your example with the riding lessons it is not enough to pay for them. Somebody has to bring the child there and pick it up.
But that's why the grandchildren come to the grandparents. The rejection of wishes is certainly difficult for many.
Berwanger: Yes, many find that difficult, but I never have to make up my mind right away. This is important. I can always tell my grandson: Let me discuss this with your parents. It is also crucial to always give the grandchildren the feeling that as grandparents you are convinced that your grandchildren have good parents. Parents with whom one can discuss important matters.
Painful scenes for grandparents
But grandchildren often come and want to watch TV with grandma or grandpa, for example, because they are not allowed to be at home too long.
Berwanger: When parents say no, that also means no for me as a grandma or grandpa. I know that very unpleasant situations can then arise, that grandchildren call Grandma and Grandpa stupid, throw themselves on the floor, yell, threaten never to come back. These are painful scenes for grandparents. But often the only thing that helps is good persuasion and interesting alternatives: Come on, let's cook your favorite meal. Come on, now let's do this or what you like to do.
And yet, many grandparents also have to experience, even though they have always looked after their grandchildren, that the grandchildren don't look after them.
Berwanger: Yes, many experience that. That too is tough and hurts. And it takes a great deal of maturity and serenity to come to terms with it. I can only advise parents and grandparents to lead a fulfilling life of their own and to cultivate partnerships and friendships.
To person: The qualified psychologist and family therapist Hans Berwanger, 65, has a practice together with his wife Ingrid in Coburg. The couple have three children and one grandson.
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