Are you a grandparent, or about to become one? If so, you have an exciting new role in life, especially if you intend to be actively involved. But helping with the raising of a child that isn’t yours can be tricky, even if you’re related. Both the child and their parents could find your contribution intrusive if you take it too far; on the other hand, you may have concerns about how your grandchild is being raised and feel you could help. For successful grandparent input, a plentiful supply of tact and self-restraint is often needed, together with an open mind. Here are some approaches to avoid, to ensure a rewarding experience for you all.
1. Overriding the parents’ rules
When you see your son or daughter, or their partner, raising your grandchild in ways you don’t agree with, you may want to tell them so, but bear in mind your opinions may not be welcome. What’s more, if the parents catch you going against their methods, they may not trust you to care of their child in future. There are many good ways to raise a child, so look for the positive aspects of theirs and try to keep an open mind. Only intervene if your grandchild seems to be in danger, physically or emotionally, and do so as tactfully as possible.
2. Helping without invitation
Some parents love their own moms and dads to roll up their sleeves and help with the raising of their child. But don’t assume that your son or daughter will take this attitude. They may prefer to be fully in charge themselves, seeing your role as an admirer rather than a helper. In that case, you can still be closely involved, but in the capacity of a visitor or host instead. If you find yourself in this situation, just rejoice that you don’t have to change the diapers or control the tantrums. Take up a pastime to enjoy between visits, following your grandchild’s development through phone calls, emails and Skype chats meanwhile.
3. Giving uninvited tips
As a parent yourself, you’ll have plenty of tips to offer your children when they become parents. But they may prefer to make those discoveries for themselves, even if it means learning from their mistakes. It can sometimes undermine the confidence of a new mom or dad to be given tips from someone who thinks they know better, even if it’s their own mom or dad. If you’re anxious to pass on a particular piece of advice, offer it once only, in a gentle, tactful way.
4. Being a teacher to your grandchild
Some grandparents take on the role of educator for their grandchild, teaching them to read and count, for example, but this approach isn’t always popular with the child. Your grandchild will certainly benefit from some light educational enrichment from you, but if the fun turns into a lesson, this could detract from your special rapport. They’ll enjoy hearing what life was like when you were young, though, and your childhood memories will be educational as well as interesting.
5. Underestimating your value as a grandparent
A grandparent can offer something unique to a child – family support from a comfortable distance. Children often turn to their grandparents with problems they find awkward to put to their parents. Sometimes they’re more willing to listen to their grandparents, too, so be proud of your invaluable role and remember that your grandchild needs and wants your support as they grow.
A measure of sensitivity will earn you rewarding results as a grandparent. With your role fine-tuned to suit the whole family, you can go ahead and enjoy it to the full.