Grand Boundaries


My daughter is growing into her role of mother with grace, wisdom and patience. Yes, I know I’m biased, but it is a remarkable thing to witness. I believe this to be one of the most meaningful experiences of my lifetime along with being a parent myself. The determination that could bring me to my knees when I was her mother is one of her greatest gifts as a mother herself. It provides her with the strength to make decisions based on her beliefs and values.

There are many boundaries to consider between parents and grandparents. How much time do we give or ask for when it comes to babysitting? Or, as a grandparent, when are you stretching yourself too much? I see a reluctance in my daughter to ask me to babysit while she teaches yoga or goes to an appointment if it is outside of my usual Nana Day. So, I make a point of checking in any spare moment I have which tends to be an hour or two, here or there, a few times a week. We check in with each other. Am I asking too much, I know you have your own life, Mom. Or, are you wanting some company or have you got plans?

Other boundaries include the role we play in our relationships. While I have taught parenting for decades, I am not my daughter’s parenting expert. I’m her mom, the only woman on the planet who can be her mom. Imagine how allergic she would feel to my advice if it was unsolicited and coming from judgment or wanting to teach her how to be a better parent. Fortunately, my own mom modelled this boundary for me. She stood back, respected my choices, and didn’t interfere with our parenting.

I’m grateful that there is so much information available to parents now. More than that, I’m grateful that my daughter beats to her own heart. She doesn’t buy into some of the theories that suggest you can spoil children by responding to their needs.

These questions are asked by both parents and grandparents:

How do we have serious or difficult conversations when we see things differently? What would be an issue that I would feel compelled to discuss? What are the important points of parenting that I would want to share? If I see or hear something that concerns me, what is my belief? What is important about this issue? What is the need or value that it represents?

A recipe for bringing things up:

Choose a time to talk when there are no distractions or children present.

Ask permission. Would you be comfortable with me stating a concern?

Stick to the facts, not what you think but what you can specifically observe. When I hear or see __________. And state what need or value you are concerned about.

Watch your body language. Your adult child may be exhausted, uncertain and already riddled with feelings of guilt. Have a soft face and a gentle tone.

If the statement doesn’t land, stop talking. Go slow so that you have time to feel things out and to listen to the response. Get curious.

If what you say is making sense and well received express gratitude. I appreciate our ability to talk about these things.

Remind your child that we learn as we go, and we are all doing our best.

We tend to repeat what we learned in our own families growing up when it comes to boundaries. If we are fortunate, healthy boundaries come easily. If the boundaries were blurred we may have some blind spots yet, we can educate ourselves and develop our awareness.

As parents, we learn through our successes and failures. We don’t have all the answers up front. We gather knowledge day to day by looking back if something didn’t go well or if we are feeling guilty. Boundaries that matter usually represent respect for time, privacy, emotional and physical safety, people’s autonomy, and the need to belong and be loved.

I remember very clearly, two times that my mother spoke up. Once, when my daughter was four and I was sick with the flu. My daughter was climbing all over me and not letting me sleep. I said something awful like, if you keep waking me up, I’m going to get sicker. With that, my mother spoke sternly and said, she doesn’t need that kind of responsibility for your health.

The second incident came years later when she was in her late 80s. I started going to her apartment to clean it. I was on my knees cleaning her toilet bowl. Standing behind me, I heard her say, Dr. Rees! I can hire a cleaner, I just want you to be my daughter.

With a loving connection, and healthy boundaries we can navigate those invisible lines. We can create what works for everyone and enjoy loving and being loved.

Dr. Allison Rees
Dr. Allison Rees
Dr. Allison Rees is a parent educator, counsellor and coach at LIFE Seminars (Living in Families Effectively).

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