View our other publications:

Blended Families Create Bonus Grandparents

How to navigate potential conflicts


Holidays, vacations and special events can be challenging when juggling two sets of grandparents, but families with more than the typical number may face additional challenges. Remarried parents – or when parents of new moms and dads have remarried – bring additional grandparents into the extended family.

The first thing a parent should do in a situation involving multiple grandparents is consider the value of those family members in a child’s life, says Don Azevedo, a clinical psychologist. “If the parents value the role of grandparents, it becomes easier to deal with the multiple people when you see the benefits of multiple grandparents in your child’s life,” he says.

Put your Immediate Family’s Needs First

Summer vacations and family gatherings can be stressful for families with multiple grandparents. Parents may feel as if they need to take multiple trips to be sure all grandparents spend their fair share of time with the kids, or to avoid accidentally upsetting a grandparent by spending the week at the beach with an ex-spouse’s family.

First and foremost, parents dealing with multiple grandparents should keep the needs of their immediate family – themselves, their spouse and their kids – at the forefront, says Susan Orenstein, a licensed psychologist.

“Parents have to figure out how to take care of themselves and their children, and not take on more than they can handle to please other people,” Orenstein says. “I like to tell parents this is their turn to create their own rituals and be at the center of their own families.”

Keep Communication Open

Orenstein recommends that you and your spouse have an honest conversation before any event that could cause conflict with the grandparents, and to decide together what is in your family’s best interest. “It is important that the two parents talk to each other, and then back each other after the decision has been made,” she says. It’s often helpful to write down your goals for a visit or holiday because you’ll be more likely to stick with a written plan.

If you anticipate a challenging conversation, Orenstein suggests first role-playing with another person. Clearly state the plan and let the grandparents know when they will have some time with their grandkids, even if it has to be during another holiday or visit. “It is possible to be compassionate and set limits at the same time,” she says.

Stay Neutral Around Your Children

Keep emotionally charged feelings about a grandparent away from the kids. Remember that your child has a different relationship with his or her grandparents than you do, so it’s best to keep that relationship separate from your own. Unless the grandparent is causing harm to your children, encourage the relationship and include all sets of grandparents whenever possible, Orenstein says.

Karen O’Leary, mother of two, has worked hard to make sure her children view her stepfather and biological father, who recently passed away, the same. “We try not to give the impression to the kids that either person is more important than the other. We make the point to them that family is family, and both are their grandfathers,” she says.

Handling Common Situations

While each situation is unique, families with multiple grandparents often experience common problems, such as the following:

  • Grandparent names – It’s hard enough to name two sets of grandparents. Add more and you really have to be creative. Get buy-in from the grandparents by letting them pick the names they want your children to call them. Another solution is to let the children decide. If more than one person chooses Grandma or Grandpa, ask both parties to pick a different name. Some variations include: Granny, GiGi, Mimi, Grams, Grandpa, Papa, Pop Pop or Gramps, to name a few. A common solution for step-grandparents is to incorporate the grandparent’s first name, such as Granddad Joe.
  • New baby – Grandparents are often excited about a new arrival and want to make sure they get ample time with the new baby. Before the baby is born, come up with a plan that works for you and your spouse regarding visits. Be especially sensitive if the grandparents are a little jealous of former spouses or new partners. Inform them of the plan ahead of time to reassure them that they will be given time to rock the new baby.
  • Holidays and Birthdays – By planning ahead for different holidays and birthdays throughout the year, all grandparents will know what to expect and when they will celebrate with the grandkids. “It’s not your job to see that everyone sees everybody for every holiday.” Instead of hosting multiple events for separate grandparents, Orenstein suggests that parents invite everyone to one gathering, then let them decide whether to come or not.

While maintaining your child’s relationship with extra grandparents may often require additional planning and communication, you can both benefit in the long run. By taking the time to make the situation work for all parties, you’re giving your kids the gift of spending time with the many people who love them. ,

Jennifer Gregory lives with her husband, two kids and three dogs. Her children have three sets of grandparents who love and spoil them.

Back to Search Results

Subscribe to our newsletter