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How to Deal With Grandparents & Favoritism

by Candice Coleman

Grandma loves her grandchildren, but she might love one a tiny bit more. If Junior finds that what he gets from his grandparents pales in comparison to the gifts, attention and kindness his baby sister receives, a storm is already brewing. Differences in treatment can lead to long-standing resentment between siblings or cousins, along with problems with low self-esteem and depression in the less-favored child. Take heart, Mom: you may be able to mend this problem without bringing further harm to any of the kids.

Pay attention to the relationships your children have developed with their grandparents. It's normal for grandparents to spend one-on-one time with each child, but if your daughter often gets overlooked while your son gets to spend the day with his grandparents, grandma and grandpa may be showing signs of favoritism.

Write down the details of incidents involving favoritism, including what happened and when. Keeping records of favoritism can help your in-laws or parents understand how frequently they show favoritism to one child over another.

Observe all of the children involved. Does the favored child bully or tease your other child? A child left behind by grandma and grandpa may start showing signs of low self-esteem or depression. Ask your tyke's pediatrician for advice on how to handle these symptoms.

Prepare what you plan to say to your parents or in-laws ahead of time. While you may be angry, keep in mind that the grandparents may have no idea they are showing favoritism. Keep your voice calm and choose to speak to the grandparents when everyone is having a good day. You may choose to open the conversation by saying, "John and Jill love you both very much. I have noticed that Jill often gets left out of trips to get ice cream, and I was hoping that we could talk about it."

Listen to the grandparents' reasoning: if one of your children has special needs, the grandparents may be fearful of their ability to help your child. Offer whatever help you can to ensure that both kids get equal time with grandma and grandpa. Change is difficult: give your in-laws or parents specific advice on what to do to improve the relationship with their grandchildren, such as taking each child out every other weekend.

Give the grandparents time to improve. If displays of favoritism continue, emphasize how detrimental the treatment is to the grandchild who is not favored. You can help nip favoritism in the bud by only allowing your kids to see grandma and grandpa if both kids visit. You may also ask grandparents to buy the children one gift to share during the holidays, which can help reduce conflict if one child is frequently given a larger or more expensive toy than your other child.

Tip

  • Grandparents may do different activities with each child: this does not mean that grandparents favor one child over another.

About the Author

Candice Coleman worked in the public school system as a middle school and high school substitute teacher. In addition to teaching, she is also a tutor for high school and college students.

Photo Credits

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