The arrival of a new grandchild is a momentous occasion that never fails to ignite celebration and joy. However, for first time grandparents, this journey into uncharted territory can be a whirlwind of excitement and, at times, a touch overwhelming.
In today’s world, the role of a grandparent is evolving, taking on new dimensions and becoming more dynamic and influential than ever before. As a grandparent you hold a unique place in the family structure, serving as a pillar of wisdom, unwavering support, and boundless love.
With this profound role in mind, join Starts at 60 as we delve into the essential do’s and don’ts for first time grandparents. In doing so, we aim to shed light on the significant contributions you make to your grandchildren’s lives, offering guidance and warmth to the younger members of the family.
As a grandparent, you hold a special place in the family structure. Your wisdom, experience, and unconditional love have a profound impact on the lives of your children and grandchildren. In today’s society, where families often lead busy lives, the role of grandparents has evolved and expanded to become more important than ever.
Dr Alan Ralph, Triple P International Head of Training and Clinical Psychologist and grandparent himself explains that “grandparents can play an important role in the lives of their grandchildren as well as their own grown children.”
“They can provide an extra layer of support to parents and a wider support network for children,” Ralph says.
“Nowadays, grandparents tend to live longer and stay active more than in previous generations. This can create a broader range of experiences and expertise to draw on by both parents and children.
“Becoming a grandparent can be a such a wonderful and life changing experience, filled with positive moments and happy memories to cherish.
“At the same time, it can also mean a few challenges as you navigate shifting relationships, differences in parenting styles, and new issues you may not have had to face when your children were growing up. With some open communication and a little flexibility, you can build strong and positive relationships with your adult children and grandchildren.”
Founder of Life Architekture and certified Psychology Expert & Life Coach, Bayu Prihandito also shares some of the important roles grandparents fulfill in their grandchildren’s lives.
– Mentorship: Grandparents often step into a mentorship role, offering guidance and advice that is distinct from what parents can provide. They’ve “been there, done that”, and their life experiences can be educational and sometimes entertaining for grandchildren navigating their own life’s challenges.
– Resilience and coping skills: Grandparents can share how they’ve specifically overcome obstacles and dealt with life’s ups and downs. This can help instill a sense of resilience, strength, and teach practical coping skills to their grandchildren.
– Emotional support and wisdom: Grandparents have the experience and wisdom that is both beneficial but also essential for a child’s development. Their stories and life lessons can enrich the child’s perspective and offer a deeper understanding of the world around them.
– Family traditions: They are usually seen as the bridge to the family’s history and culture. Through stories, traditions, and family rituals, grandparents can share this sense of belonging and identity with their grandchildren, which is key in shaping their values and beliefs.
– Unconditional love: The love between grandparents and their grandchildren is pure and unconditional. It’s a relationship that’s less about discipline and more about acceptance. They offer a safe space, where children feel heard and valued, which can be incredibly reassuring and comforting for them.
– Learning: Grandparents often have the patience and time that parents might struggle to find. They can participate with their grandchildren in many learning activities: from reading and playing games to gardening and cooking, which in return support children with both intellectual and practical skills.
In recognising the vital role you play in the lives of their grandchildren, it becomes evident that understanding and practicing the do’s and don’ts of grandparenting is the key to successfully nurturing this precious and influential connection.
As first time grandparents, you step into a role that is both deeply rewarding and essential in the lives of your grandchildren. To make the most of this precious opportunity, it’s crucial to understand and embrace the “do’s” of grandparenting.
These guidelines provide the blueprint for cultivating loving relationships and fostering unforgettable memories with the youngest members of your family.
With that in mind let’s explore the fundamental “do’s” that will help you navigate the remarkable journey of grandparenthood for the first time with grace and success.
Ralph stresses that the first thing to remember is to “have some open and honest conversations about your role and expectations as a grandparent” with your family, particularly when it comes to whether you want to assume childcare duties or help out around the house.
While you may want to offer all the time you have to your new grandchild, Ralph points out that “setting boundaries and expectations early on can help avoid any misunderstandings”.
“Don’t forget to look after your own mental health and wellbeing too – you want to have the energy to keep up with your busy grandchildren,” Ralph says.
“And remember to trust in your own parenting journey – you’ve been there! Be confident in your own skills. You have so much wisdom and love to offer your children and your grandchildren.”
The relationship you have with your grandchild is a special one that can also be nurtured and strengthened by:
Spending quality time together – Whether that’s reading books, playing games, or even just listening to what they did in their day. Showing you’re genuinely interested in your grandchild’s life is a great way to let them know they’re valued, and they matter.
Be curious about what is happening in your grandchild’s life – Grandparents may find it challenging to understand and manage some of the issues that children are currently experiencing, including social media, anxiety, and bullying. So if you’re feeling a bit unsure about how to handle these issues, don’t worry – there are plenty of resources out there that can help.
Talk to your GP or another trusted health professional, or do a free, evidence-based program like Triple P Online. Programs like these aren’t just for parents – grandparents can get a lot out of them too, including ideas and strategies to support your grandkids (and their parents!) through some of these challenges.
Try to have realistic expectations of your grandchild and yourself – This might mean not stressing too much about the mess they make when they come over or not being able to do a task you want them to do. It’s a learning journey for everyone.
Just as understanding the “do’s” is paramount, knowing the “don’ts” is equally essential. As first time grandparents, it’s natural to be brimming with love and enthusiasm, but it’s also crucial to navigate this role with sensitivity and respect.
The “don’ts” act as signposts, helping you avoid common pitfalls that might inadvertently strain relationships or create misunderstandings.
These guidelines remind us to exercise moderation, maintain boundaries, and uphold the trust and respect that underpin a harmonious grandparent-grandchild connection.
Ralph reminds us that “children do best when they’re in an environment in which they are loved, nurtured, and where they know and understand simple, clear rules, routines and boundaries.”
“Negative and coercive practices like smacking or yelling do not curb children’s challenging behaviours,” Ralph says.
“In fact, recent research found smacking has a lasting impact on a child’s developing brain and can lead to long-term mental health issues.
“The good news is that this can be avoided by learning positive strategies that will build happy, confident, resilient kids and strengthen family relationships well into their adult years – it’s never too late to learn a few new parenting skills!”
Parents and grandparents often clash due to differing parenting styles, which can be quite challenging for all involved. Grandparents may lean on traditional practices and values, while parents tend to embrace more contemporary approaches. These differences can lead to disagreements regarding discipline, technology use, and dietary choices, creating tension within the family.
Research from a 2020 MOTT poll found that 4 out of 10 parents disagree with grandparents regarding how to raise children and that this can sometimes lead to serious conflict that can impact the child’s relationship with their grandparent(s).
In an effort to remedy such difficult situations, Ralph offers some tips for dealing with these clashes:
“If you ever find yourself in a situation where people are arguing, it might be a good idea to take a step back and give everyone some space to cool off,” Ralph adds.
“And remember, kids look up to their parents and grandparents, so try to set a good example and show there are calmer, more positive ways to deal with tough situations.”
Another area to avoid: overindulging your grandchildren. Spoiling them excessively can be frustrating or surprising for some parents, “especially if they didn’t see this level of indulgence when they were growing up”.
Therefore, striking a balance between creating special memories and respecting the parents’ wishes is essential for maintaining harmony in the family.
Navigating the complexities of generational parenting differences can be challenging but Ralph suggests “the key is to show respect for their boundaries and try to strike a balance. That way, you can maintain a great relationship” that can create a nurturing environment that benefits both children and the entire family unit.
On a final note, Ralph reminds us that “a strong bond with your grandkids is not about grand gestures or expensive items.”
“It’s about the small things we do every day. Love them and show them affection. Be a good listener. Look for what they’re doing right, and guide them through teaching, not punishment,” he says.
“All of that has a long-lasting effect on children – shaping their view of themselves and the world around them.”
As first time grandparents, understanding and practicing the do’s and don’ts are essential to nurture the precious connection with your grandkids. The “do’s” guide us in building loving relationships and creating unforgettable memories, while the “don’ts” help us avoid common pitfalls and maintain respect and trust.
Remember that the key to a strong grandparent-grandchild bond lies in the simple, everyday things – love, affection, listening, and guidance. By following these principles and navigating potential conflicts with care and understanding, you can embark on a rewarding journey of grandparenthood, fostering lifelong connections and cherished memories that will last a lifetime.