The following pointers are abridged from a lovely online piece by Melanie Haiken, writer, editor, and former Executive Editor at BabyCenter.com. She advises new grandparents on how to handle their new role to ensure ongoing smooth relationships.
At the core of her wise advice is a respect for boundaries: As much as you love this new infant, you are not the parent.
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- Focus on supporting the expecting parents rather than telling them what you want – they’ll appreciate it.
- No matter how many kids you raised or how they turned out, your adult child and his or her spouse or partner are now in charge of the childrearing. Be cautious about offering opinions or advice unless asked directly. And even then, tread lightly and express yourself gently.
- As hard as it may be, keep your lips zipped when you hear things you disagree with, from what kind of birth the parents are planning to what kind of childcare they’re considering.
- Let the parents-to-be experiment – not every decision they make will stick. And not everything they put out there needs to provoke a reaction, either. Sometimes they’re just thinking out loud. Allow them to grow in their roles as parents.
- Don’t take their choices personally. They’re advocates of co-sleeping? Don’t want to circumcise? Want to name their baby boy Peach? Honestly, it’s not your problem. Just raise your eyebrows and report it with a smile.
- Try to avoid specific expectations – they can be a recipe for disappointment. Instead, focus on getting to know your grandchild slowly and naturally and look for as many ways as possible to be involved in his or her life. If she screams when passed to you, keep trying. She may just need time to get comfortable with someone other than Mom and Dad. Let bonding happen naturally.
- Follow your adult children’s rules (regarding routines, naps, meals, TV, etc). You’re used to being the one in charge, but this time it’s your child’s turn; it is now your role to do what you’re told – and not worry about whether it’s the best way or not.
- Give new parents a break: During visits, offer to take care of your grandbaby while the parents nap or get other things done. Ask if you can help by running errands, making meals, or cleaning up. Or just jump in and do what’s needed, like filling the dishwasher or making sandwiches.
- It may be easier for the new parents if you stay in a hotel nearby rather than in their home. This way they won’t try to take on hosting duties on top of their parenting responsibilities. It’s worth asking ahead of time.
- Forgive the new parents for being overwhelmed and self-absorbed – it’s natural. Things you used to do together will have to wait, and conversations will likely be all about them, at least for a while. If you practice patience and understanding, you’re less likely to become hurt or resentful, and your relationship is more likely to thrive until they are out of the fog of new parenthood.