Grandparents’ Favoritism Is Real In Many Families and Its Consequences May Last Generations

FamilyVery often this Grandma is asked by grandparents if there is a difference between being the grandparents of a son’s children or a daughter’s children. I always answer that perception may be greater than reality, but it is more often than not perceived that grandparents favor the daughter’s children rather than the son’s children.

That is why when I read Amy Dickinson’s column, “Grandparents’ Favoritism Can Hurt,” in the July 29, 2106 Sun Sentinel newspaper, I decided I would add my two cents to this issue, and hopefully some more concrete observations and suggestions.  That is one of the reasons why I write so many of the posts about how to honor the gatekeepers of our grandchildren and why I write so many posts about the importance of rituals and traditions in multi generational life.  That is part of why I write about grand parenting.

Here is Amy Dickinson’s column:

“Grandparents’ Favoritism Can Hurt”

“Dear Amy: I have two sons, and my sister-in-law has three children: two girls and a boy.

Neither of my boys is interested in sports, but one niece and my nephew are involved in several sports. As a result, their grandparents go to many games and spend a great deal of time with that side of the family.

Recently, the grandparents bought a new RV and invited my nieces/nephew to go camping with them. My children had no such offer.

When my husband confronted his mother on this matter, she said he was just being jealous. But she still hasn’t invited our children camping.

My in-laws’ response is typically that it’s just that they go to the games. Is that a valid reason to spend more time with part of the family over the other part of the family?

Wouldn’t taking the non athletes camping be a great way to get that quality time, since they pursue less popular activities? – Feeling Hurt”

“Dear Feeling: On the one hand, sports are very time consuming and can interfere with relationships. On the other, they give grandparents (and others) a fairly easy way to connect with the children in their lives by attending games.

Assuming that your children are as accessible to these grandparents as the other set of grandchildren, your in-laws are, in fact, being patently unfair when excluding your children.

If these grandparents feel they simply don’t know your sons well enough, camping with them would be a great way to get to know them.

You two should do your best to promote a relationship between your children and these grandparents by inviting the older couple to spend time with your family.”

Notice that the mother of the grandchildren “Feeling Hurt” is the daughter in law and it is the son’s children who she feels are playing second fiddle.  Amy ignores this very significant fact.

Is it possible that the old saying, “A son is a son until he takes a wife, but a daughter is a daughter for life,” is part of this issue? Is it that it is usually the mother who makes family plans despite more egalitarian relationships and marriages in this era?

First, Amy bashes the grandparents for their favoritism. The article does not say how old the grandchildren are, and it may be that the daughter’s children are the older set, easier to handle.  It may be that the grandparents enjoy observing rather than participating, wanting less responsibility.  This Grandma believes that the cause is not important.  The effect is detrimental, so detrimental that the hurt and consequences can last generations.

Second, Amy suggests that the son and his wife “Feeling Hurt” be proactive and responsible for creating closeness between their children and the grandparents.  Talking about it by the son to his parents has already failed.  If what they now try fails and they are rebuked or offers of spending time with their family are declined, the likelihood of a future close and positive relationship between these grandchildren and the grandparents is forever detrimentally impacted.  It is the grandchildren who will suffer.  The grandparents may be oblivious or not care.  As these grandchildren get older, they too will notice the favoritism.

Grandparent Favoritism can show its form in helping out the daughter’s household more than the son’s household with child care, time spent, and financial assistance and gifts as well.  Resentment breeds bad feelings, hostility, anger, and promotes distancing of family ties.

Grandparent favoritism may cause multi generational hurts.  Grandparent favoritism may impact the relationship of the two sets of parents of the grandchildren, forever, and beyond the lifetime of the grandparents. Grandparent favoritism may impact the relationship between the cousins, forever, and beyond the lifetime of the grandparents.

Because grandparents may not even be aware of their actions or inaction, this post is show the imperativeness of bringing the issue out in the open.  Those grandparents who have followed this blog and it recommendations from the birth of their first grandchild, whether it was the son’s child or the daughter’s child, have found a close relationship with the daughter in law and son in law and sometimes closer than the daughter in law or son in law has with his and her own parents.  Actions do make a difference.  Even if you are a grandparent who does not want to be “hands on” or close to the families of the son’s as well as daughter’s it is important to have this knowledge.

And the importance of family closeness beyond our lifetime may tip the scales toward action and change.  This Grandma does not believe you can change others if they are not committed to change.  The grandparents in Amy’s article are more likely to take responsibility and act if they are invested in their family legacy and the family culture that will last beyond their lifetime.

That is why when I read Amy Dickinson’s column, “Grandparents’ Favoritism Can Hurt,” in the July 29, 2106 Sun Sentinel newspaper, I decided I should add my two cents to this issue, and hopefully some more concrete observations and suggestions.

Prevention is better than rehabilitation, which is what must take place in “Feeling Hurt’s” family.  That is why if the grandchildren are babies and toddlers, this Grandma recommends scanning the archives of this blog for posts about ideas and actions of grandparenting.

If there are preschool or older grandchildren, there is rehabilitation possible, but Amy’s recommendation is too vague.

The first appeal that works is for the parent who is the child of the grandparents of the neglected grandchildren to set up what Amy suggests, but without the in law parent present.  If it fails, it does not alienate the absent in law parent “Feeling Hurt” further.

The second appeal that works begins sibling to sibling.  First, the siblings, the parents of the grandchildren, must unite in the goal of creating and sharing holidays, special events, creating family traditions and rituals that include all the grandchildren and the grandparents.  See post “Grandma as the Storyteller and the Importance of Rituals and Traditions for Our Grandchildren.

See post, “The Grandma Glue: Keeping Families Together for Holiday Rituals and Traditions.

See post, “Creating Wonderful Lasting Memories for Grandchildren in the New Year 2016 With the Five Things Children Remember of Their Childhood.

The sibling parents can even be the impetus for multi generational vacations.  See Family Travel Section of the Blog.

Both siblings must be committed to calling the grandparents out on having all the grandchildren treated well.  Equally is a hard word, as grandparents can have a different relationship with each grandchild as an individual that is positive, as they did with their own children as individuals that were positive without being “equal.” Camping can be special to one set of grandchildren and going to art museums can be special to another set.

The other specific idea is for the sibling parents to promote closeness between the cousins and create activities and events, traditions and rituals, where the cousins participate together.  Invite the grandparents to observe and participate.  This way they see the set they favor and then they also see the set they will learn to also favor.

Success means a closer family of the future generation, with or without the grandparents.  Sometimes we must accept the imperfections of humans and human failings.  Some grandparents are just more into themselves now that they are free of parenting responsibilities. Those of us who never had grandparents do not really know what we missed.  It is unfortunate that one set of the grandchildren may know or the family will be so torn apart that “Feeling Hurt” may pull her children farther away to keep the rest of the family to keep them from feeling the pain she feels.  This Grandma understands but hopes that the grandchildren are not made to suffer because of “projection” of what “Feeling Hurt” feels that the grandchildren may never feel.  Children are more about unconditional love and acceptance than adults.

Yes, multi generational closeness is the best.  The grandparents will not want to be left out or if they do, it is their loss. Yes, and the loss may be precipitated by what they do not realize they are reaping from their action or inaction.

Pass this post along to other parents and grandparents.  We should no longer whisper about this issue. We should SHOUT.






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