Single moms and Grandparents – Trust or disrespect?

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Are your in-laws/parents stressing you out? Do they constantly give unsolicited advice about your child or your parenting methods? Although meddling usually is associated with negative connotations, it’s an appropriate word for the behavior displayed by some grandparents. Fortunately, not all grandparents fall into the category of being overbearing. Because grandparents and grandchildren need each other and can build the most wonderful memories. But, research indicates that single moms struggle more in the area of grandparent interaction than two parent families. This may be due to the fact that grandparents seeing single moms as needing more help. Grandparents may believe they are older and wiser or “have done this before”. However, they often forget to respect their grandchild’s mother. As in most family dynamics, you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. This article will focus on how both single moms and grandparents can equally be part of the SOLUTION.

Strained relations:

Being a grandparent can be one of the most rewarding experiences in life. Through my marriage, I have been fortunate enough to inherit four grandchildren. I love them dearly and check with their mom often before I buy from a certain store or make plans for holidays. Giving respect to moms communicates that I love my grandchildren as well as their moms. When grandparents innately assume “they know best” … it leads to unnecessary tension and too much pressure on mom.

Single moms already face challenging circumstances. The problems with grandparents usually arise when respect is not shown towards mom. This can be anything from ignoring boundaries to more aggressive tactics such as bullying over mom and dictating what grandchildren will wear and even where they will go to school. If you are a single mom facing this situation, you may want to look at my previous article regarding bullying – link. Grandparents who don’t fall into the bullying category do well when they show love and respect towards their grandchild’s mom.

Effects on the grandkids:

When mom is under stress, kids feel it immediately. Children are also incredibly intuitive and usually know why mom is feeling extra stress. In many situations, children will even hear negative comments coming from grandma or grandpa about “mommy”. This increases anxiety and can induce acting out among kids. Unfortunately, it can also teach grandkids not to respect their mom.


Grandparents must remember that without “mom”, there would not be a grandchild. Showing your grandchild’s mother respect is the first step in earning trust and building a healthy relationship. Single moms need to remind themselves that grandparents usually mean well and be respectful in their interactions. Even if there is some strain or there is a misunderstanding, it is critically important that moms communicate their feelings in a respectful way towards the grandparents. Now, not all grandparents will respond in kind but that is not your problem. You are responsible for your actions and reactions – make your best effort to be firm but always respectful.

Ways for single moms and grandparents to work together:

  1. Consideration
    1. Moms should consider grandparents in trying to organize holidays and birthday parties. Grandparents must consider mom before “deciding” where the kids will be for the holidays, etc. Asking instead of “telling” will yield much better results..
    2. Grandparents who “drop by” announced is another surefire way to cause conflict. Call ahead and plan a day where you can spend time with the grandkids.
  2. Verbal praise
    1. Grandparents hold an incredible amount of emotional power. Use it to find positive things to say about mom and her parenting.
    2. Moms need to say thanks when grandparents help – make sure your kids see you modeling verbal praise.
    3. NEVER tell your grandkids negative things about mom. “Your mom shouldn’t…” is something that should never come out of a grandparents’ mouth.
  3. Love
    1. Communicating love through your actions is critical.
    2. Simply saying “I love you” but acting in a way that is unloving (by either party) is being part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

Finally, always think of the kids! Model the values you want the children to learn. Do you want to train them in sniping and disrespect, or trust and compassion?

Useful sites:

Working together

6 things you should never say


Article Written by Allison Jarman
Although recently married, Mrs. Jarman spent 17 years as single parent. She is the proud mother of two adult daughters. Mrs. Jarman was a classroom teacher in public schools and currently works in accounting and finance. She is a twice published author and weekly contributor for articles pertaining to single parents and families.

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