When I became a grandmother thirty-one years ago I immediately realized what grandparents had been proclaiming for years: being a grandparent brings boundless pleasures. But interwoven with this joy is a commitment to our grandchildren and adult children.
Over the years, I have collected lots of tips on becoming the ultimate grandparent. After sifting through reams and reams of information, I have compiled a list of rules that I believe every grandparent will find helpful. Although you may have your own guidelines, do consider some of my suggestions. Following these rules can strengthen your relationships with your adult children and your grandchildren.
Rule #1: Never give advice on parenting to your adult children unless they specifically ask for it. Although you may feel that they are not parenting the way you did or the way they should, hold your suggestions. We cannot expect our adult children to duplicate our parenting practices. You should accept the fact that the approaches to raising children vary from one generation to the next. There’s no doubt about it. Parenting today is different from when were parents. It is not easy being a parent, and we should respect our children’s efforts and look for reasons to compliment them. The more that they see you as supportive, the more your children will be open to establishing a strong relationship. Remember, your job is to be the grandparent, not the parent.
Rule #2: When you’re watching grandchildren at their home, follow the rules that their parents have set up about such things as discipline, snacks, television viewing, and bedtime. Although you may be tempted to give a little leeway, for the sake of harmony with the adults and consistency for the grandchildren, stick to the house rules. When you are watching the grandchildren at your house, the rules can be tweaked –a little. Be sure the parents are aware of what you are doing so it will not come as a surprise to them when your grandchild tells them that grandma let us eat in front of the TV.
Rule #3: Don’t feel as though you must compete with the people in your grandchildren’s lives – especially other grandparents. Families have many varied relationships, which may result in grandchildren having multiple sets of grandparents. If you see those relationships as competitions, you will alienate your children and make your grandchildren feel pressured and uncomfortable. The more loving adults that children have in their lives, the more opportunities they have for success.
Rule #4: Communicate and stay connected with your grandchildren beginning when they are youngsters, through high school, college and beyond. If you live close to the grandchildren, arrange frequent visits. You can plan a weekly get together at your house or an excursion for the two of you. It is special to have one-on-one time at your house when you can do activities that you both enjoy such as baking, cooking, looking at photo albums, reading and snuggling. If you live a distance from your grandchildren, stay connected by phone, email, notes, or text messages. The connection also allows you to know what special things are happening in your grandchild’s life. Be a good listener and let your grandchildren know that they can talk with you about anything and you will be trustworthy and non-judgmental. A connection that begins with your infant or toddler grandchild will continue to grow and be enriched through the years.
Rule #5: Saying no to babysitting and financial assistance is ok. Don’t commit to babysitting or ongoing childcare if you don’t want to do it. You will end up feeling resentful. If you offer or accept the request to care for your grandchildren, do it willingly and with enthusiasm.
According to Amy Goyer in an AARP bulletin, grandparents are often guilted into spending more money on grandchildren than they can afford. Parents can come to expect grandparents to pay for the extras or even the basics for their grandchildren. Ms. Goyer advises grandparents that regardless of how much they love their grandchildren, they must consider their own financial needs first.
Rule #6: Ensure that your relationship with your grandchildren is filled with unconditional love, trust and respect. This is the foremost rule to follow.