Understanding who’s in control when you’re an out-of-town grandparent.

For now, two parties have control over how involved you’ll be with your grandchild: the parents and you.

This applies to in-town grandparenting, of course, but when the little one is far away, understanding the power of both parties is the first step toward becoming the terrific grandparent you want to be.

IN CONTROL:  First, the parents.

hand-in-hand with child

Holy moley! Your grandchild’s parents are extremely important – no matter which one is your actual offspring. Your relationship with your grandchild is absolutely dependent on them.

As your grandkids grow up, they can have their own relationship with you. Can you imagine the day they’ll call on their cell phone to tell you they scored the winning goal or have a date for the prom? It’s coming! But for now — for baby, toddler, and early school years — the child’s parents have enormous control. The parents must love/like you — or at least want you to be a part of their kids’ lives.

Happily, most parents welcome the grandparents being involved with their offspring. The proverbial “Welcome” mat is there for one or more reasons:

  • Out of respect.
  • Because of genuine fondness and love.
  • The parents make family closeness a priority.
  • The parents realize the help the older generation can provide. (Only when you’ve had a sleepless night with a teething baby can you appreciate the joy of Mom or Dad sleeping in the guest room, ready to take the baby from you in the morning and shoo you back to bed.)

In every family structure, a smart grandparent realizes the enormous control the child’s parents have.

– If it’s your Son and a Daughter-in-Law: 

I heard it said you never realize the importance of the woman your son fell in love with – until she births your grandchild. True for me!

Most parents-in-law say you’re foolish if you underestimate the power a daughter-in-law (or your son’s partner) has. In most families, the keeper-of-the-calendar and the maker-of-plans is the woman. IF your grandchild’s Mommy likes you/loves you/wants you in her children’s lives, you’ll have a significantly easier time being involved. That’s especially crucial when grandparents live out-of-town.

After all, to welcome you into her child’s life, this Mommy must handle what life has given her: out-of-town in-laws. She must go along with the idea of you visiting for a life-disrupting period of time, probably even as a house guest. Letting you video chat with little ones may fall to her to make it happen.

The harsh reality is:

How you get along with your daughter-in-law
will determine in many ways
how soon you get to come back for another visit.

My husband and I have been blessed with a real Peach of a daughter-in-law. What a joy she is is and all my friends hear me sing her praises! In fact, our son’s wife is the type of daughter-in-law — or daughter — any person would want.

Never for a minute do we think we could be as close to our grandkids without those relationships being a priority with their incredible mother. Our love for her is abundant, including because she and our son work hard to allow us every opportunity to connect with our grands. How sad our lives would be without our loving son and daughter-in-law helping us realize our grandparenting dream.

If you’ve been blessed with having a fantastic mother to your grandkids, congratulations! She’ll want you to have strong relationships with her kids, will help you arrange video chatting, talk about you frequently to the children, welcome you to her home, and value what you bring to her life and the lives of her kids. My grandchildren see as my daughter-in-law greets us with smiles and hugs, they hear us talking and laughing and enjoying each other’s company, and they see how we love each other. That matters.

If you haven’t been so blessed, work on valuing this woman and treasuring her and truly making her life easier… and see what happens. Maybe you can make some headway. I hope the best for you!

– If it’s your Daughter and a Son-in-Law: 

I don’t have this experience, but I’ll share what I’ve heard from friends: most grandparents say being involved with their grandkids’ lives is easier when one of the parents is their daughter.

Daughters do have enormous power, but your daughter’s husband (or partner) can prove to be a hurdle in accessing your grandkids if he isn’t fond of you or doesn’t see the benefits of you being in his kid’s life. Like it or not, the relationship your daughter has with this man will directly impact how often and how warmly you’re welcomed into their home. If he is a controlling type, you’ll need to win him over or gently work around him, perhaps connecting with your grandkids more often when your daughter is by herself.

IN CONTROL:  Secondly, you

Feel your own power! While the parents certainly have enormous control, please know that you do, too. The parents can be as welcoming as they want, but if a grandparent doesn’t choose to get involved, he or she will never be important to these far-away grands — and, sadly, will probably just blame the miles.

Unfortunately, some grandparents who live 50 miles or 5,000 miles away from the grandkids give up or never even try. They assume they can’t be close to their grandkids, especially when they’re babies or toddlers so they, quite frankly, don’t try very hard.

older man hugging child

But you do have a great amount of control and can establish loving and involved relationships with your little darlings no matter where they live.

You control …

  • how nice you’ll be
  • how much you’ll do
  • what you’ll sacrifice
  • the role you’ll play

Of course, I realize that if one of the child’s parents is unreasonable or wants the children to be estranged from you, what a grandparent can do is severely limited. I wish I could offer solutions in my blog, but I have no experience with this situation and certainly no expertise in this area. I’m sorry for your situation and sincerely wish you brighter days ahead.

But for many grandparents, we decide if we’ll be an asset to this family far away or if we’ll be someone who just stays in the wings. When I knew I wanted to be involved in the lives of the parents and of my grandkids, I knew it would happen only if I was a positive force in everyone’s lives, turning down the “me” button and turning up the “let me help” button. With reasonably nice parents for your grandchild, happily, you’ll most likely reap what you sow.

Do you feel powerful? What choices do you make about how involved you’ll be? Please share your experience in the Comments section.

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1 thought on “Understanding who’s in control when you’re an out-of-town grandparent.”

  1. As soon as they realized what a help I could be and how very much I want to spend time with my two year old grandson, the invitations to visit came more frequently.


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