During one of my recent presentations on Grandparents as Caregivers, I discussed ways to turn power struggles, between parents and grandparents, into empowering alliances.

As parents, we all have skills, values, ideas, and a vision we bring to the table. When parents elect to invite grandparents to be caregiving partners – or when grandparents elect to step up and in as caregiving partners – the skills, values, ideas, and visions can create a deluge of over-the-topness.

The parents and grandparents love and are committed to the child/children in these caregiving situations, but without the proper strategy or plan – the caregiving ideals become too concentrated causing parents and grandparents to dig their heels in and hoard power or control.

Parents and grandparents have to be open and honest about the way they envision and see their caregiving partnership playing out. They have to be willing to own and express their apprehensions about joining this caregiving partnership. They also have to be clear on how their needs mesh with that of the parents, grandparents, and the child/children.

This may sound scary, complicated, and un-fun – but it doesn’t have to be.  We all know parenting can be challenging and rewarding. When parents and grandparents are empowered in this caregiving partnership, their collaborative efforts can inspire and motivate each other. They can tap into their inner wisdom and share ideas from a place of openness and love – instead of from a place of power and control. The caregiving partners can tap into their unique energy to positively impact the daily life of the child/children – as well benefiting from the byproducts of teamwork (between the parents and grandparents) as they grown, learn, and nurture their connection to the child/children.

In order for empowering alliances to work effectively, the following should be in place:

Set some norms.  No one likes to be blindsided when they are in a caregiving partnership. Creating norms for communication, scheduling, compensation…and whatever criteria you need on your list, should be established right away. The list of norms does not have to be long. The norms have to be specific and doable. They need to empower the caregiving partners to be safe while building and nurturing the empowering alliance.

Be clear about roles and responsibilities. The worse thing caregiving partners can do is be well intentioned while tripping over each other and then wondering what happened.  Make a list of what the partners feel are their best parenting/caregiving talents and strategies.  Decide which talents and strategies are needed at the time – for the caregivers and the needs/age of the child/children . Then create a roles and responsibilities checklist or poster.

Meet regularly. Meetings can be face-to-face, conference all style, or virtual (email, skype, etc.). Select what works best for your caregiving partnership.

In our multigenerational nest, we have a caregiving partnership meeting 1-to-2 times a month (2 times when things are bit busier and more likely to cause a rift). Our meetings involve hubby, my mother-in-law, and me. They take place after dinner and don’t involve my children. We discuss upcoming events, needs, and any changes we need to make to keep things flowing smoothly. If there are any conflicts or grumblings – based on our norms – we have agreed to speak in “I” statements and then work to find a solution to the grumbling. We don’t focus on who caused it – we focus on how the grumbling surfaced and what to do to alleviate it.

Cross train. In some caregiving partnerships, you may have 2 parents and 2 grandparents – or 1 parent and 4 grandparents – or 2 parents and 1 grandparent. The point is, the make-up of who is on your caregiving team can look a variety of ways. Based on this, it is important the caregiving team members know and understand the roles of all the caregiving partners. Leave room to create ways for information flow and caregiving apprenticing to take place. This will keep the caregiving team functioning well and the empowering alliance will grow stronger.

Celebrate often. Caregiving is not always easy. It’s also not always easy for parents to share their parenting role or for grandparents to rethink their parenting role. As you develop and build your empowering alliance – celebrate small and large successes. Acknowledge what is working and thank each other for a job well done. Celebrate what makes your caregiving partnership unique and vibrant. Notice the daily joys and empowerment that radiates through your caregiving partnership.

How have you built an empowering alliance in your caregiving situation?

I’d love to hear your ideas and tips.


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