Photo Courtesy of Ling family
Being a grandparent is a rewarding experience. You get the joy of the company of a child but without the responsibilities of being their parent. However, being a grandparent can come with its own twists and turns and could also lead to tension between you and your son or daughter (and their spouses).
Here are 7 tips every first-time grandparent should know, to better navigate the minefield of being a grandparent.
They will both fulfil you as a grandparent and maintain a good relationship with your own child.
1. Respect the boundaries
Probably the biggest rule to follow is to accept that your child and their partner are in charge, not you. You might have a lot of experience raising children but you need to let your grandchild’s parents parent the way they want. They need to learn how to be parents without someone looking over their shoulder so let them go on their parenting journey themselves.
Refrain from giving unsolicited advice and don’t interfere in their parenting style. But do listen when they want to share with you how they’re parenting their child. Also, take a step back when necessary.
2. Don't compare
You might have sleep-trained your children a certain way but your grandchild is following a different method. Or perhaps your neighbour’s grandchild is walking and talking way before your own grandchild. Whatever the case, don’t compare your grandchild to others and don’t tell your child how things were done ‘back in the day’ either. It’s not wise to project your anxieties or fears onto your child. They could be still finding their feet as parents so such input from you is not helpful.
3. Go easy on the gifts
It’s tempting to buy everything your grandchild needs when they’re a baby and then purchase every toy or book they ask for when they’re older. However, you should resist the temptation to spoil your grandchild without finding out what their parents want from you. Ask your child if they are okay with you buying things like clothes and toys, and if they have any preferences. Even if you know they aren’t very financially stable, check with them before buying any big-ticket items such as prams. You don’t want to offend your child and, in turn, affect your relationship with your grandchild.
4. Press refresh
Brush up on your parenting skills and understand that things may be done differently these days. Learn how to operate equipment (eg. car seats) that you might not have used back in the day and refresh your memory about what kinds of foods are good for kids at various ages. Accept that some things may have changed over time so it’s best to be up to date on childrearing dos and don’ts before your grandchild arrives.
5. Let your child know you're there for them
While you should let your child make the rules concerning their own child, you need to let them know you are willing to lend a helping hand. Tell them how much time you’re able to contribute if needed and share your daily schedule with them if they require daily babysitting. However, learn to say no too. Don’t let your child take advantage of you and don’t help beyond what you can handle.
6. Don't take things personal
Your child is going to parent differently than you so don’t take it as a personal attack on your parenting style. Your child is a different person (ie. not you) and they’re most likely also making these decisions with their partner. So if they choose a name you don’t like or decide to try a parenting method you don’t agree with, don’t question their decisions. And definitely don’t make any passive-aggressive comments.
7. Cherish every day
Children grow up fast so enjoy every minute spent with your grandchild. Make the experience more enjoyable for everyone involved with minimal drama. This is also beneficial for your grandchild as they’ll grow up in an environment with happy parents and grandparents.
Tips from real-life grandparents
Our parenting style and our kid’s parenting style is very different. We cannot force our style of parenting on them although we think we have learnt from experience.
We should not give any advice or volunteer our views unless asked for. The parents are finding their own way and style of parenting and are ultimately the decision makers.”
It’s a time to be excited but as much as you have a lot to offer from your life experience, suppress the urge to give your two cents’ worth and keep your hands off unless invited.
Be grateful for God's gift for you to be blessed with your first grandchild. Be patient with your own child. Guide them, but don’t enforce your ways of handling a child on them. Be there for your own child, emotionally and physically.
Avoid giving unsolicited advice, even though we think we know better how to raise children. Younger generations have different approaches and styles.