It’s undeniable that one of the best phrases you can hear in life is “you’re going to be a grandparent!” You probably picture your days as grandma and grandpa at t-ball games and ballet recitals, spoiling the kids with treats, and rediscovering your inner child with all kinds of games and crafts. Being a grandparent comes with perks and joyful memories. But it’s critical to remember your place so that you can remember to be a parent to your adult children, too.
1. Respect boundaries
Control freaks – beware of the next statement: You were setting the rules as mom and dad for years, but now that’s over. It’s your kids’ turn to be mom and dad.
As much as you’ll want to do everything for your grandchildren, it’s important to remember that they are not your kids. This means that you need to follow their parents’ rules and be respectful of the parents’ authority. It’s best to get these expectations straight in the beginning and to clarify at any point where preferences aren’t clear.
So, if that means no fast food, no letting the kids stay up after bedtime, no TV for longer than the allocated time, try your best to follow those rules.
2. Don’t forget to be Mom and Dad to your kids, too!
Just because you have grandkids doesn’t mean that your kids are chopped liver! When spending time with your adult children, ask them about their lives, their work, their hobbies. It doesn’t need to be about the grandkids, constantly. Reminding your kids of this can add the sometimes missing balance that parents can feel.
Remember, your kids will want a break from being mom and dad – and you can be more than solely a babysitter. Have fun, and be supportive, to your own children!
3. Throw Judgement Out the Window
We all want the best for our families. But, you don’t want to cross the line between helping your kids out and micromanaging their lives. Except in extreme circumstances that affect your grandchild’s wellbeing, support rather than criticism is appreciated.
If mom and dad, for example, are not sending your grandchild to a school you want them to attend, you need to remember that it’s not your decision. Please still attend junior’s basketball games or school play, though!
All in all, if your opinion is solicited, definitely share it, but new parents really don’t appreciate naggy, judgmental “advice” – remember there’s plenty of it wherever they go!
4. Don’t Neglect Your Own Life
Are your kids depending on you to babysit 24/7? Like many grandparents, I’m sure you want to spend lots of time with your grandchildren and are happy to help out your kids (especially if it saves them some serious cash). However, please keep in mind that you do not have to say “yes” every…single…time.
Regardless of your reason for saying “no”, and regardless of if you have plans or not, it’s important that you put yourself first. If you’re on grandchild overload, say no. Just make sure that you give the parents enough time to make other arrangements.
5. Don’t Forget to be a “Grown-Up”
On this same theme, maybe you have committed to babysitting your grandchildren regularly to help save your kids some money on daycare. What a wonderful gift you’ve given this family!
Share your own hobbies and interests with them. I have some great memories of gardening with my grandmother (I would pick the weeds!) For example, when it comes time to pick a show to watch, you do not need to spend all day watching Thomas the Train; maybe share one of your favorite (child-friendly) movies instead!
6. No Strings Attached
Sometimes, grandparents are able to help their kids and grandkids financially. If you are able to assist in a monetary way, know how much your kids appreciate your kindness. But when it comes to gifts, make sure that there are no serious stipulations. This can cause undue conflict, especially with your child’s spouse who might not fully “get” you.
Say, for example, you are willing to pay for a grandchild to attend a private school, an unbelievably generous gesture. Perhaps though, the parents of the child might not want their child to attend the said school. If that happens, don’t feel like your gift is “rejected.” While you might be hurt, please be understanding of their parenting decision. Instead, maybe you can assist with another educational endeavor, like saving for higher education.
7. Nip Dependency Issues in the Bud
As mentioned, you’ve already raised your kids. You don’t want your adult children to become emotionally and financially dependent on you to raise their families. Are you frequently paying your kids’ bills? Are your kids relying on you for constant babysitting (that you don’t always want to do?) Know when to say NO and don’t be afraid to set a boundary.
Every family is different, and what may be burdensome to some grandparents is no trouble at all for others. However, if it gets to the point where you’re feeling financially harmed or emotionally burned out, it’s time to put your foot down. It will be a good lesson, too, for your always observant grandchild.
Being a parent and grandparent – summing it up
Grandparenthood is an amazing experience but like all things, it has to be managed. There are many different ways this advice can be applied, but the main point to remember is don’t forget to see it for what it is. It’s an opportunity to create memories, support and love your kids, and facilitate the transfer of values and legacy to your future generations – not a job or an all-encompassing commitment. This time, the role comes with boundaries – and that’s what makes it so enjoyable. Have fun!