By Peggy Edwards and Mary Jane Sterne, authors of Intentional Grandparenting: A Boomers Guide (McClelland and Stewart, 2005) is available at your bookstore or online at Indigo/Chapters
Tips for Supporting New Parents
How can grandparents support young parents in their role? They said:
- Praise me, praise my partner. Tell us when we are doing a good job.
- Don’t tell me how you handled things better.
- Be empathetic. Try and understand how we feel.
- Be gentle: our lives are turned upside down, especially with the first child.
- Be patient with us and our children.
Communicate with us:
- Listen to where we are coming from.
- Ask us before assuming things, such as what are appropriate gifts.
- When you babysit, ask us about current issues you need to pay attention to; for example, what to do if our child throws food. We take it away.
- Don’t be a martyr. Tell us if we are asking too much of you. Let us know what kind of grandparent you want to be.
Respect our parenting practices:
- Respect the way we parent when you are with our children. Watch us inaction so you can see and understand how we handle issues.
- Be consistent with things that are important to us, for example the use of “time outs” to discipline.
- If you don’t understand something, ask: for example, how to buckle up the car seat properly. This is a major safety concern for us.
- Don’t bribe grandchildren with cookies and candies instead of reasoning.
- Provide “gentle wisdom” and advice without challenging how we want to parent.
Offer to babysit:
- We need to be alone together as husband and wife. We need you to babysit because we don’t trust anyone else, especially for the first six months.
- Be prepared to help with the older child when a second baby comes along. He needs someone who knows and loves him.
- Child proof your house so we can relax there (no danger or fear the kids will hurt themselves or break precious knick-knacks).
- If possible, have a room and crib available when we visit, especially when coming from out of town.
Tips for Supporting Grandparents
How can young parents reciprocate? Grandparents we talked with said:
Communicate with us:
- Listen to my ideas about the kind of grandparent I would like to be.
- Tell me what you expect and if the way I am grandparenting is helpful or upsetting. If I am visiting from out of town, tell me if it is too much for me to stay in your home.
- Share the small everyday details about my grandchild—that he is beginning to crawl, that he read a “chapter” book, that she is collecting things related to frogs, that you are working on toilet training. This helps me stay up to date and gives me relevant ways to connect with my grandchild.
- Talk with me about how I should handle delicate situations such as temper tantrums or acting out when your daughter or son is in my care.
- Ask for help when you need it. I know that bringing up a family is one of the most challenging jobs in life. Unless you tell me, I sometimes do not see that you need some practical or emotional support.
- Ask ahead of time when you would like me to babysit. Respect the fact that I have other commitments and that I need some private space too.
- Respect the special relationship I have with my grandchild. It is different than the relationship you have with him. Help us find opportunities to be together.
- Include me in family outings, rituals and get-togethers. Invite me to school concerts, recitals and sports events where my grandchild is involved. Next to you, I am her biggest fan!
- Keep my photo on display in your home and tell my grandchild about me and our family.
- Be honest with my grandchild if I am sick or in need of comfort. Help us share some quiet but meaningful time together. Being with a young person I love is the best tonic there is!
- Remember that my excitement over your child is an extension of my love for you. Now that you are a father or mother, you will learn that a parent’s love lasts forever.