The Role of Grandparents in a Child's Life

Grandparent sitting with children

Parents today face a different set of challenges and circumstances than their parents. Increased awareness of early brain development, bonding and attachment, or even safety issues like the dangers of second-hand smoke mean that parents may make different decisions than their parents once did.  

But the importance of grandparents and grandparents' love for their grandchildren will never change. Close extended family relationships offer so many benefits as grandparents mentor, nurture, and teach the next generation. Mutual respect, open communication, and understanding are the keys to forging these relationships.   

Parenting Tips: Establishing the Role of Grandparents in Children's Lives 

Tips for Parents 

  • Don't overlook the grandparents' role in child development and parenting help. Grandparents can be a wealth of knowledge and teach you important life lessons. Remember that they've raised their own children and have years of learning to build upon. 
  • Share your expectations for your child respectfully and kindly: "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." 

Tips for Grandparents

  • Ask about your child’s parenting expectations. Are there routines that they'd like for you to maintain as the grandparent? 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 screen time is okay, 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.

Do 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 watch an extra movie? 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 parameters set by the child's parents. 

Understand the special role and importance of grandparents in the family. Also remember that 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 as parents. 


Bright Horizons
About the Author
Bright Horizons
Bright Horizons
In 1986, our founders saw that child care was an enormous obstacle for working parents. On-site centers became one way we responded to help employees – and organizations -- work better. Today we offer child care, elder care, and help for education and careers -- tools used by more than 1,000 of the world’s top employers and that power many of the world's best brands
Grandparent sitting with children