November 18, 2011
Every family is unique, but those families who have grandparents who live nearby or are involved in their children’s lives are lucky. It somehow seems just a bit brighter for kids who get to be regaled in stories of long ago, those stories about when mom or dad was a child.
However, some of you with grandparents nearby might wish there was a bit more distance between your house and theirs.
When a baby is born, we have a new baby, new parents, and new grandparents. Our roles have all instantly changed. The new grandparents can be a wealth of information. They have amassed 20, 30, or 40 years of parenting experience. Everything from infants to teens to parenting adults. It’s only natural that they now want to share with you everything that they’ve learned. (They also might want to try to correct what they believe are mistakes that they made as parents.)
The most important thing that new parents need is support, not criticism. When you’re a new parent, exhausted, and fumbling through this new role, the last thing anyone needs is criticism. We want to show our parents that we can be competent, capable parents.
There are a few things that I would tell each side about the parenting and grandparenting relationship.
First of all, thank you for all your work, now let your child show you what a wonderful parent they can be.
Second, get updated on the latest safety recommendations regarding back to sleep, car seats, breastfeeding, and all things baby. We know you raised your children without all those things and they turned out fine, but we’ve learned how to do things safer. I would never say better, because you did what was recommended at the time. It’s sort of like updating your computer to the latest antivirus.
Third, lead by example. If you have the ‘magic touch’ for soothing a baby, or you know how to dodge the pee fountain when changing a diaper, show them your tricks of the trade.
Lastly, listen to your child, they are the parents. They get to parent their child as they see fit.
First of all, hug your parents and thank them for everything they’ve done for you and that you hope to be as good a parent as they were to you. This is important. They need to hear it, and it may help them to step back and let you parent.
Secondly, get updated on the latest safety recommendations. The last thing you want to do is put your baby at risk. Also, once the grandparents get updated, you might not want them to ‘show you up’.
Third, lead by example. Show the grandparents that you can do it. Don’t hand the baby off for them to change the diaper. This is your baby, you can do it.
Lastly, listen to your parents. They are a wealth of information. Ask questions. Listen to the answers, then make your own decisions.
The best advice that I ever read regarding grandparents and spoiling is: “The closer you live to your grandchildren, the more you have to abide by the parents’ rules.” This means, if you live in the same house, parents’ rules. If you babysit on date night for the parents, then you can spoil, but day-to-day operations, it’s the parents’ rules. This can be tough on grandparents, but at a young age, the child does not understand the difference between mom’s rules and grandma’s rules when everyone lives in the same house. You’re all adults to the child. If you live across the country from the grandchild and only get to visit say twice a year, then spoil away. It’s an every now and then treat, but you still have to be respectful of the parents’ wishes.
Grandparents can be a blessing. Be respectful of each others’ new roles. Talk to each other. Listen to each other. The grandchildren will benefit from Grand-parentelligence.