There are as many different roles for grandparents today as there are different family configurations and needs. In no particular order, being a grandparent is an opportunity to play, to love someone new, to appreciate the magic of a developing mind, and to be needed by someone again. Usually grandparents have the benefit of interacting on a level that is once removed from the day-to-day responsibilities of parents. This can make it easier to develop a close bond with grandchildren.
Whatever your specific circumstances, by expressing love, showing concern for your grandchild’s safety and wellbeing, and being consistent in your behavior, you are already doing a good job of grandparenting. Here are things you want to avoid as a grandparent so you can continue a healthy relationship with your children while winning as a grandparent.
- Don’t tell your kids how to raise their children. Avoid judging their parenting style. Children don’t arrive with instruction booklets, so we do our best, and we have to let them do the same. Offering advice without being pushy is important to your relationship with your children.
- Don’t forget how to say no. Never commit to babysitting or ongoing childcare if you really don’t want to do it. You will end up feeling resentment. Remember, you are entitled to a life too, and you should not feel guilty if you need to say no.
- Don’t compete. Many grandparents fall into the deep dark “I’m the best grandma or grandpa” abyss. Competing grandparents only alienate their children and can ultimately make their grandchildren feel pressured and uncomfortable.
- Don’t disregard parental rules. Ideas about discipline, snack foods and TV time can be hot button issues. Be careful not to stretch the limits. Talk over non-negotiable rules that are important to your children.
- Don’t be too pushy. Resist the urge to see your grandchildren all the time. Instead, let your kids, and later your grandkids, come to you. Always communicate your availability, but don’t insist on unwanted or inconvenient get-togethers. Understand that you won’t always be a top priority for your grandkids. They will inevitably go through times when they are more interested in their activities and friends than in spending time with you.
All grandparents begin with the best intentions, yet no relationship is without its mistakes. Understand the arrival of a grandchild makes one a new person with a new place within the family. Identify relationships and role shifts. People sometimes fail to realize there’s a major difference between parenting and grandparenting. When this happens, family conflict is sure to follow. Failure to listen is a common grandparenting mistake. Remember on-going, open lines of communication are important for the grandchild-grandparent relationship.
A good grandparent is devoted to the family and has a vision of the family as extending from the past into the future. Share the commonality between the two worlds. Although their generation may seem vastly different from your own, you have more in common than you realize. Children of every generation want to absorb their grandparents’ essence and legacy.