- In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing. Theodore Roosevelt
Meet My Grandchildren
Watch out for the gender gap
How often you see your grandchild can vary, depending on whether the baby’s parent is your son or daughter. “It does depend on your relationship with your offspring, but I’ve noticed through my work that you may see your grandchild a little less often if the child is your son’s rather than your daughter’s,” says Denise Knowles, family counsellor for Relate. “This may make you feel as though you are slightly outside the closeness circle. But it’s simply that the new mum wants to spend a lot of time with her own mother at this time.”
Don’t play competitive grandparenting
Whatever you do, try not to compare yourself to the other set of grandparents. Instead, accept that each grandparent can show their grandchild something new because everyone is different. “It’s about celebrating these differences rather than being critical or seeing the other grandparents as competitors,” says Denise. “Raising this child has to be a joint effort.”
Be tech savvy
Okay, so if you live hundreds of miles away from your grandchild, you may find it difficult to be there for every birthday, let alone sports days and nativity plays. But by scheduling video calls on Skype and FaceTime, it’s still possible to marvel over your grandchild’s development milestones, for example their first steps.
“Technology can also help your bond grow because if you and your grandchild have seen each other at incremental stages, you won’t be such a stranger to them when you get to see them in person,” says Denise. But don’t forget snail mail too. Denise suggests sending a little card to your grandchild occasionally, reminding them that you’re thinking of them and hoping that a particular event goes well.
Respect that times have changed
If you don’t agree with how your grandchild is being parented, yet the child is happy and the parents are not asking you for help, try to keep quiet. “As long as the child is thriving, and neither parent nor child is in distress, it’s best to avoid stepping in with your suggestions or criticism,” says Denise. “Recognise that while your way worked for you and your children, this mother is doing things differently and her family is doing just fine. Sometimes grandparents have to accept that times have changed and things have moved on.”
Set limits on gifts
Of course, if you don’t get to see your grandchild often, it’s completely understandable that you want to lavish them with gifts and sweets. But it’s best to ask the parents before whipping out your credit card. If you’re too extravagant, it can affect all your relationships – particularly if the parents are struggling to make ends meet.
“If grandparents spend a lot on gifts, the child can end up saying, ‘Well, we’ll just ask Nanny – she’ll get it for me’,” says Denise. “The parents and grandparents need to grasp the impact this has on the family dynamic and, in the interests of the child, work together to set limits.”