How to be a Good Grandparent?
Expecting a grandchild is one of the most exciting times of an adult’s lives, and actually having the child is even better. Millions of grandparents world-wide love indulging in and caring for the offspring of their offspring. However, in all good intentions and with lavishing love on them, sometimes one can accidentally interrupt the positive flow of things.
Ultimately, the best scenario is one where the grandparents respect and follow the rules of the parents who allow the grandparents all the time they want with the kids. No relationship is perfect, but the best possible one is what all grandparents want. Here are some tips that can go a long way in that direction.
- Be there at the grandchild’s birth. If at all possible, arrange with the parents to be there (inside or outside the delivery room) when your grandchild is born. Bonding with the baby from day one is a great way to build a strong three-generational family. Many grandparents say this experience is a monumental moment in their lives.
- One-on-one time. Spend as much time alone with your grandchild as possible. With multiple grandchildren, give each their “one-on-one” time. Do not play favorites. This fundamental connection between you and your grandchild fully blossoms when the child has your undivided attention in a relaxed setting.
- Be part of your grandchild’s life. Keep up to date with your grandchild’s day-to-day life. There is no need to be present every day to have an everyday presence. Think about emails or just pick up the phone.
- Remember birthdays, holidays and special moments. Send a card and a gift. If sending money is your choice and there are several children of different ages, it may be best to pro-rate the amount according to age.
- Emphasize that “doing is better than having.” On regular visits, give the grandchildren fun things to do, rather than going to the mall and buying presents. Try to find unusual activities and adventures that will stick in their memory.
- There are usually four grandparents. Please do not set up any rivalry over gifts or competition for visiting rights.
- Be a role model. It’s important that your grandchild see you use your wisdom and experience in a loving and caring way. A good relationship with your grandchild and his/her parents will set the stage for the time when they “move up” the generational ladder themselves.
- Check first with the parents. When making plans or decisions, always check with the parents first. Remember they are the primary parents and you are just a “back-up.”
- Long distance grandparenting can be rewarding too. Everyone enjoys receiving mail, so send letters to your grandchild. Describe your feelings, hopes, dreams, and what you did when you were your grandchild’s age. Kids love this information. Other alternatives to letters are phone calls, recorded cassettes and videos, photographs, homemade gifts, and books that have been autographed by you.
- Start right. Begin with relationships with both parents of the grandchildren, possibly before they’re on the way. Being close with a child’s mate can be difficult, but managed right, it can be a lifetime of pleasure. One should do everything he or she can to get along with a child’s mate, even if the mate is not the “right” choice in the parent’s eyes.
- Offer help even before the baby arrives and then in the next few weeks. Help with cleaning, cooking, laundry and looking after previously born children is usually welcomed. Remember, it’s about the mama and the baby now, there’s plenty of time for Grandma to bond with them later.
- Respect the new parents’ wishes. Everyone’s mother had certain things she will not allow around the kids, or certain ways of doing things, and so does this child and their mate. Even if it’s the first baby, let them do it their way, unless it’s something that’s not safe for the baby and they truly just don’t know about it, like leaving a baby on the counter for just a second. Generally, the kids will turn out fine.
Keep Grandma Gifts to a Minimum
Gifts for the baby are fine, but try to make most of the gifts time to spend with them. Get a book and then read it together, or buy a project kit and then let them keep the paints when everyone is done playing with it. Spending time with them is the best gift anyone can give any child, and sometimes that means taking them without their parents. This is also the best gift Grandma can give the Mom.
Never forget a birthday or holiday and it’s good to send a card for no reason, sometimes. When birthday or holiday gifts are expected, kids really look forward to what Grandma and Grandpa bring, don’t disappoint them, no matter how busy one might be.
Show an interest in the things the children like. If they like and play football, go to every game and buy him his own ball. Pay for lessons or a little league. If she likes Strawberry Shortcake, take her to the Ice Capades featuring that character and buy her a nightgown with the image on it. Ask them questions about their interest and try to learn about it.
Inexpensive Ways to Entertain Grandchildren
For grandparents on a budget, it doesn’t have to be expensive for grandchildren to visit. There are things to do and activities to plan that are low or no-cost activities. It may take a little bit of planning, but there are ways to be with kids that will provide personal time together that can be inexpensive, simple and fun, and create cherished memories for all.
Make Family Photo Album with Grandkids
All those photos stuffed in shoe boxes are perfect conversation starters for grandparents and grandchildren to talk about family generations and their place in it. This is great opportunity to show pictures of the grandkids’ parents when they were children and initiate story telling about what it was like when their parents were young.
Plant a Garden with Grandchildren
Children love to play in the dirt and also like to help, so create a small plot of ground that can be the grandkid’s garden. If living in a condo or apartment, a container garden on a patio or deck can work just as well. Depending on how often grandchildren visit, grandparents may want to start with planting seeds with the grandkids.
Fun Walk with Grandparents
Plan a scavenger hunt that has grandkids looking for specific things, like a particular type of flower, or a kind of a dog, or color of cars parked on the street. Think of categories ahead of time and for the youngest children, show them an example of what they’ll be looking for. Take a stroll and look at what’s in the neighborhood. Introduce neighbors, stop in a local store for a snack or at a café for some hot chocolate.
Take Grandkids to Local Playground or Park
Playgrounds are always an attraction for children, and a new playground is an adventure. It’s a way to meet other children from the area or to just hang out with grandma and grandpa on the swing set. A stroll through a park to look at the flowers or the memorial statues commemorating certain people or events can spark interesting conversations.
Go to a Farmer’s Market with Grandchildren
Find a farmer’s market either in the neighborhood area or on a farm out of the city, and let the grandchildren see and taste a variety of fruits and vegetables. This gives them the opportunity to talk with the farmers who grew the produce. Once back at home, a delicious fruit or vegetable salad can be prepared together for lunch or dinner.
Some Do’s About Grandparenting
A grandparent can also help by doing the following:
- Tell stories of what it was like back in the day. Teach grandchildren history and genealogy and write it down, too. It’s fun to sit with them and see their reactions to how it used to be, when telephones had rotary dials, and such.
- The mother is every bit as important as the baby. Gift her with time, too. And, realize the parent’s need to be alone, without the kids. Offer to be available.
- Do remember that (depending on family structures) there are likely 4 to 6 other grandparents who also want time and who also want to buy them all mermaid bedspreads. Try to share.
- Follow Mom’s schedules and routines when visiting. Don’t throw everyone off schedule because the kids had a visit at Grandma’s.
Some Don’ts About Grandparenting
There are a few things grandparents should not do as well.
- Never cut the grandkids’ hair without prior permission, no matter what. Even if it looks good, the parents will see this as a breach of boundaries and there will be trouble, guaranteed.
- If the kids owe money, never put the grandkids in the middle of it. Keep them separate from the money ordeal or visits may not be as often as one likes.
- Don’t charge for childcare! Nothing good can be said about this one, just don‘t do it.
- Don’t criticize what the parents do or how they do it, whether it’s their mothering or their housekeeping. It’s not time as grandparents to parent the parents. That’s been done now. Instead, try complimenting the way they do something or find something positive to say and ignore the unpleasant thought.
Whether your contribution to your grandchildren is large or small, what you do is important. When a close, intimate grandparent/grandchild relationship has been formed, an attachment is often developed for life. With this attachment comes the experience of being loved and accepted, a sense of security and warmth, a historical sense of family, and the gift of a role model for the future. Being “grand” is not hard; just be “you”!