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The Role of Grandparents in a Child's Life

role of grandparents

Parents and children of today face a very different world than those of the previous generation. Awareness of these differences can help today's parents navigate the role of grandparents in a child's life and, on the flip side, help grandparents play a special role in the family.

These days, health and safety issues are of much greater concern.

For example, today's grandparents who had children before 1967 took them to school, to the playground, and to their grandparents' homes without the benefit of seat belts or car seats. Given what we now know about the dangers of automobile travel, it is unthinkable that anyone, much less infants and toddlers, would travel this way.

In addition, for many parents, second-hand smoke was an unknown danger to their children. Now, aware of the health risks it poses, today's parents are becoming more conscious and making different decisions than their parents once did.

However, some things will never change - love, genuine concern, and dreams for our children. It's important for grandparents to check with their grown children and be in sync with their parenting.

Does this mean grandparents have to follow the rules at all times? Probably not. What grandchild doesn't like to stay up late at Grandpa's house, get another scoop of ice cream, or rent an extra DVD? Grandma's house can be a very special place with its own set of routines and rituals - it's not meant to be the same as home, but be certain that the fun is still within the parenting parameters set by the child's parents.

Communication and respect are key aspects of the grandparent to parent relationship.

If you're a parent:

  • Check in with your parents and partner's parents. After you and your significant other, there is no one who loves your child more. Grandparents can be a wealth of knowledge - they've got you and your partner to prove it.
  • Let them know your expectations for your child. Sometimes this is difficult to do. How do you tell your own mother, or mother-in-law, that you would like things done differently? The answer is honestly and respectfully. "Mom, we're concerned about the amount of sugar in juice, so we'd like him to drink milk or water for now. Thanks for listening." "Dad, we don't think that movie is suitable. Thanks for taking the girls skating instead." 

If you're a grandparent:

  • Find out what your child's (and his/her partner's) expectations are for your time with the grandchildren.
  • Are there routines that they'd like you to maintain? Knowing just the right sequence at bedtime may make the time infinitely more pleasant for you and your grandchild.
  • Learn your grandchild's schedule. Knowing when meal time occurs, how much time the child needs to get ready for an event, when outside playtime is OK, and so forth will allow you to provide more consistency for your grandchild.
  • Are there some activities that are taboo? You don't want to be the reason your grandchild loses privileges.
As grandparents, remember - your children are now the responsible adults who have created an entirely new nuclear family. You went through this process years ago, so remember how good it felt to be respected and have your decisions validated.

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