I always knew my younger sister would become a grandparent before I would. And, by gosh, she did… five grandchildren in three years! Many of you are also navigating through this new, exciting stage, some with confidence and others with some apprehension.
North of 52 created a survey to poll its readers, with the goal of sharing pearls of wisdom, bits of advice, and lessons learned for new and expectant grandparents. Here’s what we learned.
Rewiring at Its Best
Becoming a grandparent opens a brand-new chapter in your life. Your child is now a parent and you get to enjoy this pleasurable, rewarding journey without being in the driver’s seat. You get to love this new little person, nurture him or her, and grow with them, yet without all the responsibility of being a parent. It’s also an opportunity to enrich your relationship with your own child as he/she settles into this new role.
It’s Their Turn Now
You’ve had your chance, and now it’s your child’s chance. Your job is to support your child and his/her spouse as they now experience the joys and challenges of being parents. Now is not the time to shower them with opinions and advice, or make up for any regrets you may have. Just zip it. If you’re asked for advice, great! Just keep it brief and on point. They will make mistakes just like we did. So unless there’s a safety issue involved, bite your tongue. Your job is to be positive, go with the flow, and support your child in this new adventure called parenthood.
Support Their Choices
It’s inevitable that the choices these new parents will make might not be the ones you would make. What, no baptism? No napping schedule? A name you have to spell? They are the parents, you’re not. Suppress any urge to judge or comment. Be supportive and be their cheerleader. That means no side discussions with others about how you disagree, no passive aggressive silent reactions, and no secret bathtub baptisms. You would have grumbled if your parents were vocal about your choices. Smile, be supportive, and move on.
Follow Their Rules
Your adult child and spouse have given considerable thought on how best to raise your new grandchild. With that, come decisions and rules that are important to them. Take a backseat and be sure to follow those rules when you’re spending time with your grandchild.
If there’s a no-sugar rule, don’t undermine your child by sneaking your grandchild a cookie. Rather, learn how to make nutrition-dense energy balls. Or, if they don’t like the idea of having toy guns in the house, don’t buy your grandson a Nerf gun (as fun as they may be). If you don’t support their wishes, resentments build that may ultimately lead to less time with your grandchild.
Give Them a Break
You have an incredible opportunity to become so close to your grandchild, with oodles of happiness brought to your life. Ask your child how you can help. Perhaps you can take your grandchild for a walk in the stroller, so mom or dad can shower, nap and get things done. Or, if they want to spend alone time with their new child, perhaps you can do some household chores to help out. Your presence should be a welcome joy to both your child and grandchild.
Read, Play and Savor
Create a grandparent bag, filled with books, toys and age-appropriate activities. If your grandchild often comes to your home, set up a play area filled with their favorites. Ensure that your home is childproof, so your children will feel comfortable leaving your grandchild with you. Stock up on some supplies like diapers, wipes and baby food to make visits easy.
Take every opportunity to read to them, get down on the floor and play with them, take them outside, and enjoy their company. Turn off the TV and put away your phone. Savor your time with these new treasures.
If You’re Local
Your adult child now has a new little family. It’s an exciting time for them and you. Be available, but not overly available. Call ahead to see when it’s a good time to stop by and how you can help. They are adjusting to being new parents and need time to be alone with their new child. Don’t take it personally if they need a bit of room now and then.
Deal with Distance
If your grandchild lives out of town, you may not see them as often as you’d like. Take advantage of technology by connecting with them on FaceTime or Skype. I enjoy my FaceTime sessions with my great niece and she loves when I put our dog on camera.
When visiting, if your child lives in an apartment or small home, consider staying at a nearby hotel or bed and breakfast. This will provide recharging breaks for you and take the pressure off your son/daughter and spouse from feeling like they need to play host during your visit.
Becoming a grandparent offers a whole host of emotions and surprises that you may not anticipate. You may be surprised at how close you become to your grandchild and the amount of happiness they bring to your life. Or, you may find that you need an extra dose of patience as the chaos of young children ensues. You will rewire and grow as a individual, all the while taking in your new role as grandma, grandpa, nana or papa.
Your grandchild will grow up quickly and they will change seemingly before your eyes. Take lots of photos, and ooh and aah over every photo your adult child shows you of your grandchild. Your son’s/daughter’s friends may tire a bit over what may feel like flood of photos on Facebook or Instagram, but you will cherish each smile, grin and milestone.
Although it’s the era of digital photos, make a brag book for yourself and surprise your son/daughter with a physical scrapbook that captures treasured moments. A scrapbook or album makes a home for these memories and goes beyond a swipe on a phone.
For Wannabe Grandparents
Polled readers were loud and clear on providing advice to those of us who might love to become grandparents down the road. First, keep active, get strong, and stay healthy. There’s lots of heavy lifting, especially during the first several years of being a grandparent. The little ones will fully expect you to play with them on the floor. Secondly, do not put pressure on your children to make you a grandparent. Give your son/daughter space and time to decide if and when they want to become parents. Live a rich and full life, fostering your relationship with your adult children.
Becoming a grandparent is a rewarding, fulfilling experience. You’ll be an amazing one!
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