This article is also available in Chinese, Malay and Tamil versions.

Chinese: 祖父母:与孙子(女)的父母沟通
Datuk dan Nenek: Komunikasi dengan ibu bapa cucu anda
தாத்தா-பாட்டிகள்: உங்கள் பேரக்குழந்தையின் பெற்றோருடன் தகவல் தொடர்புகொள்வது

Why communicating with your grandchild’s parents is important

Communicating well with your grandchild’s parents is key to strengthening your relationship with them, to resolving problems as they arise and to avoiding the conflict that comes from misunderstandings. When your grandchild’s parents and you communicate well together it creates the best environment for your grandchild’s health and development.

Talking together to clear up misunderstandings or resolve conflict might be a new thing for your family. It’s worth remembering that, like most things, you get better at it with practice.

Tips for communicating with your grandchild’s parents

Try these tips for good communication with your grandchild’s parents:

• Share news and funny stories about your grandchild with your grandchild’s parents – it helps keep them updated on what’s been happening and it can be good for your relationship. It’s also fun.

• Speak in a positive way with your grandchild’s parents – even if you’re raising a concern – for example, ‘It’s great when you’re on time to meet me. I find Arthi gets a bit upset when you’re late’.

• Use good listening skills – pay attention when your grandchild’s parent speaks and try to understand things from their perspective, even if their opinion might be different from your own.

• Wait until you’re asked for advice before giving it. Advice can be helpful, but too much can be overwhelming and even alienating.

Tips for how to avoid conflict

Good communication can help avoid misunderstandings that can lead to conflict. To avoid misunderstandings, you might like to check in with your grandchild’s parents about:

• whether your grandchild is allowed treats like sweets, and if so, how much

• how you would like to manage your grandchild’s behaviour, and make sure they approve – for example, ‘I won’t be able to take her to the park if she doesn’t hold my hand to cross the road. Does that seem fair?’

• what they would like you to do if your grandchild is injured or becomes sick when in your care

• your own needs and how they fit with minding your grandchild.

Address any issues before they become bigger problems – for example, ‘I like that driving Kai Li to her enrichment classes lets me spend regular time with her. But the traffic is really tiring. So I’ll be able to drive her to class, but will need some help with cooking the dinner when we get back’. Then listen to the other person.

What to do when there’s conflict: Tips

Even with good communication, misunderstandings and differences of opinion can arise. There might be disagreements or uncomfortable silences between you and your grandchild’s parents. Conflict is normal in relationships. The important thing is how you handle it. Here are some ideas:

• Pick your moment – when your grandchild’s parents arrive home from work might not be the best time to bring up a difficult issue. Try to choose a time when your grandchild is not around. Wait until another time if you need to.

• Think about your tone of voice and how it might sound to your grandchild’s parents. Try not to sound hostile or disapproving. Your grandchild’s parents are more likely to listen to you if they are not feeling defensive.

• Be calm, positive and respectful. It can help to start with an observation or a question – for example, ‘I’ve noticed that Kimberly seems grumpy if she plays on the computer for too long. What do you think?’

• Listen to your grandchild’s parent without interrupting. Let them finish before you speak.

• Check that you understand your grandchild’s parent’s perspective – for example, ‘It sounds like you think Siti was a bit too young to watch that movie’.

• Avoid saying hurtful things or laying blame – for example, ‘You always ...’ and ‘You never ...’ It’s better just to stick to the issue and keep it brief. For example, ‘Sharon used a naughty word at the park yesterday, I wasn’t sure how to handle it’.

• Take responsibility for your feelings – for example, ‘I feel really exhausted looking after Wei Zhen all day. Would you be able to hire a helper to help me?’

• Show your child compassion – they’re doing the best they can.