Being a good grandparent sounds easy, but there's a fine line that new grandparents have to walk if they are to succeed in this role. As a grandparent, you need to learn your new boundaries since you're no longer the primary relationship in a child's life. Stepping back may be difficult, but there are ways you can nurture this new relationship.
Start with the new parents. Your child and her spouse are the link between you and your new grandchild. Strengthening the bonds between you and the couple will benefit all three generations in the formative years ahead.
Offer your help in the first few weeks. If you're physically able and the parents are open to it, spend as much time as is mutually agreed upon with the new family. Remember to ask what they need you to do, and realize that this isn't the time for you and your grandchild to bond. You're there to give some much-needed support and relief to the parents so that they can bond with their child.
Respect the new parents. Your grandchildren will be fine. After all, you raised one of their parents. Instead of criticizing or correcting decisions and lifestyles, give your advice only when asked. All parents deserve the right to do things their own way, and just as you wanted to raise your children without interference, so will your son and his wife.
Give the gift of time. Whether you live far away or next door, your time will be the most important gift you can impart to your grandchild. With the new parents, set up times to visit or to take your grandchild overnight or for the weekend. A toy might be long forgotten, but the relationship you build with your grandchild and the memories you create will last a lifetime.
Remember birthdays and holidays or every days. Sending a card or email or making a phone call on special occasions or just for the fun of it are great ways to foster your relationship. These little efforts work extremely well for grandparents who live at a distance from their grandchildren.
Show an interest in their interests. You may be long past coaching Little League or leading a Girl Scout troop, but knowing what your grandchildren are involved in and what they love to do shows how much you love them. All it takes is asking what new song she learned during piano lessons or who won the soccer game to start a dialogue and show how much you care.
Share your history with your grandchildren. Don't wait until they're old enough to listen to your stories of elementary school or the snowstorms you had to walk through to get there. Start a journal and write it all down, including the names of all of your relatives that you can remember, important dates and funny stories.
- It's okay to spend a little one-on-one time with each grandchild without the fear of appearing to choose favorites. As long as each child gets his own "Grammy Time," they will all benefit from these experiences.
- Enjoy the simple things in life. Spending time with your grandchildren doesn't have to mean an expensive outing to the mall or the movies or an amusement park. Invite them over to bake, play games, rent movies or read stories.
- Enjoy your role as grandparent. If you're not babysitting but simply visiting with your grandchildren and their parents, don't discipline the children. That's for their parents to do, and you can sit back and finally be the fun one, not the "no" person.