Most people may not realize what grandparents feel for their grandchildren until they become a grandparent themselves. It varies, or course, just as parental feelings vary, but one thing is constant. Here is a child you love with all your heart, just as you love your own children, and you have no control over what is going to happen in his or her life. You can make tactful suggestions when you feel it is absolutely necessary, but most of the time you need to step back at let the parents do it themselves, as hard as that may be to do.
That being said, just what is a grandparent’s role in the lives of his or her grandchildren? In today’s world that varies widely. Some grandparents rarely see their grandchildren, often because of the long distance between their homes and that of the grandchildren. Some participate in weekly or monthly outings or dinners. Still others are either daycare providers or full-time caregivers for their grandchildren.
Add into the mix the large number of today’s blended families and you have quite a large set of complications involved in maintaining the grandparent-grandchild relationship. How can grandparents deal with all this and the complications in their own lives as well?
The key is establishing and sustaining a good relationship with the parents of your grandchildren. While your relationship with your grandchild is uniquely your relationship, it is the parents who set the rules regarding what role you take in the children’s lives.
Here are some suggestions for making sure you and the parents are on the same page regarding your rol in the children’s lives.
Keep a calm and nonjudgmental attitude towards the parents. Though one of these parents is your child, that may be the one you have to work harder to get along with. Remember that she or he may have residual issues with you stemming from their childhood. In some cases, you may even need counseling to resolve these issues. You may, however, have no conflicts at all between you and either parent.
Out of the hearing of the children, discuss how each of you perceives you role in the lives of your grandchildren. Listen to what the parents say and try to reflect back to them that you are hearing them.
If you are going to provide daycare while the parents work, try to discuss every detail such as pick up and drop off times, schedules, and what the parents’ expectations of you are. Put it all in writing so that everyone can remember what was said and agreed to. Do not forget your needs in this discussion, either.
Speak up. Outline your personal expectations for your role with your grandchild. You have every right to let the parents know what you want to receive from the relationship with your grandchildren. If you feel you are being used too much as a babysitter or that you are not getting to see your grandchildren often enough, say so.
Know your legal rights as a grandparent in your state, but do not enforce them unless it is absolutely necessary.
After that, the role you take with your grandchildren depends on your personality and theirs. You can be the cozy grandmother that bakes cookies and rocks them in the rocking chair. You can be the sporty granddad that teaches them to throw a ball or fish. You can be the grandma that reads them a book over Skype at bedtime or the grandparents who exchange videos with their family over the Internet. The possibilities are endless and fulfilling.
In the end, its all about loving the children and wanting what is best for them. That is something that all the adults involved can agree on.
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