Congratulations! After raising your children the best you possibly could, they have had children of their own to love and to cherish. You are now a Grandparent!
Once the dust has settled after the arrival of your first grandchild it is not long before you may realise your visions of spoiling, loving and doting quickly disappear. Your children have stepped up to their roles as new parents with such passion and fear that you feel dismissed at having any part in raising your grandchild.
Well I am here to offer my advice as the passionate and fearful parent, about how you can not only survive at being a grandparent, but absolutely smash it and be the amazing grandie we know you really are.
Years ago, being seen and not heard only applied to children however these days as I am told by many friends, it seems to be trending towards grandparents. This may seem harsh but it will work to your advantage. Of course we know you have years more life experience and wisdom than your children when it comes to raising a child and clearly you were successful at raising children of your own. You may even be an expert after making a career out of parenting and having babies but there’s a high chance your children will assume you have no idea what you are talking about! “Nothing has changed here” I hear you say… What you believe are the ‘right & wrong ways’* to raise a baby are likely to be the exact opposite of their parenting style which is why they believe you have no idea what you are talking about. Don’t take offence! It’s not a personal attack on you, they are merely doing what they believe is right for their child and what works for them. You will be and ARE needed, just not so much when the advice is unsolicited.
Why not try this? Be a ninja. Stand back and wait. Be trustworthy, be present, try to support any decision they make regardless of your opinion and you will be surprised how frequently the parents of your grandchildren will come back to you for your help and involve you in the lives of their kids.
Support the parent’s rules
They may not have raised a child before but they are not silly. There are reasons behind the decisions they have made when it comes to the care of their children, your grandchildren. For instance, limiting the amount of sweets their child is given. There has been extensive research on the subject that food companies are putting more and more chemicals and genetically modified ingredients into foods these days, these changes in foods are proving to present issues such as behavioural, health and growth problems and a possible link to the increase of food sensitivities and allergies in children, yet despite this, food companies are still able to sell their products to poor unsuspecting souls like you and me. So when parents request to cut back on giving their children cakes, lollies and ice creams they are not doing it to be spoil sports and ruin your fun and special bond with the kids. They are doing it because they are concerned about the long term health effects these potential health risks pose to the growth and development of their children or because their children are showing allergies or sensitivities and it is having negative effects on their health or behaviour.
Sleep is another pointed issue in the parenting world. It should be known that up until a baby is the age of two, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome or ’SIDS’ guidelines are (and most definitely should be) the main resource for parents deciding how they get their baby to sleep. That and whatever the hell works in getting the baby or toddler to sleep, safely, in less than an hour and takes minimal effort after being at work or fighting a resistant baby all day and just needing a moment with themselves or some downtime with the husband or wife! When you have the chance to babysit for more than a few hours which may include nap times or if you are asked to babysit overnight, SIDS Guidelines are now recommending that tummy sleeping is unsafe and babies are to be placed on their backs and all toys, pillows and cot bumpers are to be removed as these pose a suffocation risk. The parents may do things to settle baby that you disagree with such as using a dummy, sleeping bag, rocking baby to sleep, using the pram to get baby to sleep etc. Discuss the options with them calmly and in a supportive manner and find common ground to help you when you are looking after the baby that is consistent enough with their home life but fits in with your comfort level.
Accept you are not the only grandparent
This is a hard one! Becoming a grandparent is joyous and rewarding, though you probably haven’t given a thought to sharing the responsibility with someone other than your partner. It is likely the baby will have, at the very least, two sets of grandparents therefore the role is going to be shared. There will even be enthusiastic aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends and more wanting to assist with the care of your grandchild. It can be difficult to resist succumbing to feelings that there may be favourites and that favourite isn’t you BUT humans are amazing creatures and our hearts are capable of SO much love. There will be plenty for you from your grandchild no matter how many influential people they have in their lives. Rest assured, if you get down on the same level as them by playing with them, being present with them and listening to them you will most certainly be left feeling like a pretty damn good grandie and you will be appreciated.
After all this, if you are still unsure of your role as a grandparent, here are a few fail safe’s for you;
DO: Have fun!
DO: Feel free to spoil your grandchild, after all that’s what grandparents are for! Trips to the park, movie days, reading books, amusement parks, trips to the beach, museum, art gallery, botanical gardens, local library and buying small toys are more than ok. Just remember that big toys, haircuts, ear piercings and new pets should be discussed with the parents first. It would kill them to miss out on these firsts or to have you buy a toy they wanted to give to the child themselves as a special birthday or Christmas present, or a pet that doesn’t quite fit with their family lifestyle.
DO: Follow the routine as best as possible. Parents do respect “your house your rules” but too much change for babies and toddlers can result in confusion and resistance when they are at home. In saying this, sticking to the routine, even loosely, will also make your life much easier when you are babysitting as the children will know what is expected of them.
DO: Encourage good behaviour. This is a tough one as smacking was typically an accepted discipline however we are seeing evidence as more research is conducted that it is a far less effective discipline than, say, talking about ‘why’ what they did was the wrong thing and how they should have acted, complimenting them when they behave well etc. It is up to us as parents, elders and teachers to show children the right way to behave and do things, even if you must repeat yourself, over and over and over and over. Children will react more positively when they are given the opportunity to learn rather than being told. Discuss with the parents what has been working for them and stick to it. Consistency works best.
I sincerely hope this helps both parents and grandparents to come together when caring for children. We shouldn’t be arguing with each other about the best ways to raise a child. We should unite to raise our children to be their best.
* The right way, in my opinion, to raise a baby is to love, nurture and meet the baby’s needs no matter how it is done. The wrong way is anything contrary to this.