Grandparents play a very special part in children’s lives. They can give children lots of love and security, have fun times and share the family history. Children are lucky when they are close to their grandparents as well as their parents.
Some grandparents are closely involved in children’s lives while others are grandparenting from a distance if their children live far away.
Whatever kind of grandparent you are it’s important to support your family, to be open to new ideas and willing to talk things over.
What grandparents can do
You can enrich your grandchildren’s lives by giving them love and supporting their parents. Some things you can do are:
- Spend time with your grandchildren, have fun, explore the world and just be together. Your personal interest in them will build their self-esteem. Grandfathers in particular may have time to spend with their grandchildren they might not have had with their own children.
- Talk about the family history – your own and other ancestors. This gives children a sense of belonging and helps them know where they fit in the world. Tell them stories about their parents when they were young.
- Encourage your son’s or daughter’s parenting and be a good example – try not to criticise and only give advice if asked.
- Keep up family networks and stay in touch with family members.
- Give security and protection. Grandparents can be there to support and protect grandchildren as a ‘safe haven’.
- Be your grandchildren’s friend and confidante.
- Be a role model – show your grandchildren they too can survive life’s challenges.
- Teach skills you have that they may not learn elsewhere.
- Inspire – show your belief and wonderment as they tackle new things.
- Your home may not be child-proof. When grandchildren are young, check that your good things (tableware and pot plants) and your poisons (medicines, cleaning and garden products) are out of reach. Make sure any swimming pool is properly fenced and young children can’t fall or climb into other water features such as ponds, troughs or tanks. Make sure you have correct child restraints in your car, and a safe cot for babies.
- Have a box of toys, games and books that are special for visits. Add something new sometimes.
- Children love stories. Keep a supply of books to read to them. Tell stories about the family history.
- Read a few current articles or books on parenting so you are up to date with modern ideas.
- Keep up with your grandchildren’s interests. As they grow older take an interest in what they are doing.
- Have your own ‘house rules’ about the amount and type of technology/screens that may be used in your home.
- Be a good listener. Grandparents often have time to give children a real chance to talk about their interests and feelings.
- Children love to cook and often with parents being so busy, it can be a special thing you do together.
Reminders for grandparents
- Grandparenting is a very special relationship. It’s a chance to do for your grandchildren what you may not have done for your own children.
- One of the best things you can do for your grandchildren is to support their parents.
- Ask their advice. Don’t expect them to take your advice but be willing to share ideas.
- Let young parents know you think they are doing a good job when you see them doing things well. Having a baby is a vulnerable time and support and praise really helps parents, e.g. ‘You’re such a lovely mother’, ‘How lucky he is to have you as his Dad’.
- When a second baby arrives, offer to mind the new baby. This will give parents time to spend with their first child who may feel left out and need to feel special and loved.
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