It's common for grandparents to spoil their grandchildren. After raising their own kids using restraint, they are ready to let loose on the next generation. And, with so many children living in blended families today, it's possible for kids to have a whole lot of grandparents going overboard in their life.
Grandparents are not immune to feelings of jealousy either. Perhaps one set of grandparents live in the same town and see their grandkids every week, while the other set is further away and may only see their family once or twice a year. A closeness can develop between some kids and some grandparents, leaving the others feeling marginalized.
Some grandparents are more wealthy and can afford extravagant gifts for their grandkids, while others are struggling on retirement pensions. This difference in income can create a tension as the lower income grandparents may be concerned that they cannot provide for their grandkids in the same way as their well-off counterparts.
In fact, sometimes grandparents turn their envy and jealousy into a competition in order to try and keep up with the other grandparents. This competition can be even more pronounced during the holidays when gifts are exchanged.
So, what's a parent to do to settle the one-upmanship between grandparents? Here are my five solutions:
Assure them they are still loved
As silly as it sounds, you need to treat this competitiveness in much the same way you handle siblings who compete. Remind both sets of grandparents that you and your children love them all very much and each relationship is special and has its own unique and special qualities.
Disconnect love from consumerism
Be sure to reinforce the idea that love cannot be bought, and is not related to material gifts. If Grandma and Grandpa want to build a good relationship with your children, help them find ways your kids would best like to connect. Skype calls, playing online games together, being Snapchat friends, keeping memory albums, or sharing a hobby are all great ways to stay connected.
Making memories and interacting is what counts, and if you are creative, you can find a way!
Request a cap on holiday gifts
Sometimes it can help to put a reasonable, agreed upon spending cap on holiday gifts. Explain to grandparents that if they feel so compelled to give more, the additional funds can be placed in a savings account for the kids' post-secondary education.
Manage the kids
You are not responsible for grandparents' behaviour, but you are responsible for parenting your children.
Children can accidentally hurt the feelings of a grandparent by showing favouritism to one grandparent. For example, they may give effusive attention to one, or make statements like, "We always get the best gifts from you!"
Teach your children manners and empathy for the feelings of others. Read them stories which teach the concept that more wealth and more stuff doesn't mean more love or personal worth.
Help them get to know one another
Often the grandparents don't know one another. By inviting them to spend time together, you are helping to build a relationship between the grandparents which can ease any feelings of threat or competitiveness.
Finally, on a personal note, as someone who has lost both parents before my children could know them at all, try to keep perspective. These are truly nice problems to have.
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