8 Ways to be a Super Grandparent

Today’s grandma is no longer sitting on the couch all afternoon watching her “stories.”  Many of us are embracing the grandparent role.  It’s great to see our children grow up and have children of their own.

Some families love having grandparents around, but some do everything they can to avoid them.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to be an awesome grandparent and be invited back again and again.

1. Avoid jealousy

Don’t be paranoid that the other grandmother is somehow better, more loved and more of a Gran than you’ll ever be, especially if they live closer than you and have more contact.

It’s especially frustrating when the other Gran is popping over every 15 minutes while you’re still working at a demanding career and live 500 km away.

Remember, it’s not a competition.

2.  Only offer what you can give

The general assumption is that grandparents are always available, especially if you’re retired.  Offering up flexible childcare can unintentionally become a tireing chore.  It’s vital to consider how much time you can offer and your level of tolerance.

My Dad didn’t like my sons around because he thought they were too noisy.  I’d think, “What’s your problem, they’re just little kids.”  Then I’d remember he thought I was a noisy kid, too.

How active a carer do you wish to be?  Are you willing to have your grandchildren stay with you?  Travel with you?  How is your health and how easily do you fatigue?

If parents have differing epectations from you, it can cause problems.  Let them know when your’re available for childcare and when you’re not.  That way there won’t be any misunderstandings.

3.  Don’t assume you know better

You probably have a lot of experience in raising kids and lots of ideas.  While you may have been a whiz at changing a diaper with one hand while playing a rousing game of Candyland with the other 30 years ago, you’ll have forgotten quite a bit. 

You want to help, but guidelines have changed a lot over the years and your ideas may be outdated.    My children used a walker, were fed solid food at three months and put on a strict sleeping schedule – all taboo now. 

The hardest thing about grandparenting is accepting you’re not in control.  You may hate the grandchildren’s clothes, or that they’re allowed to play video games for hours on end – but don’t dare say so. 

Your children don’t want to hear how it was done back in the day, and unsolicited advice is never well received.

4.  Break the rules – a bit

As a child one of the joys of staying with my grandmother was staying up later and eating cookies between meals.  A little spoiling is natural.  The danger comes when the spoiling isn’t just a mild indulgence. You don’t want your grandchildren to view you as a pushover or a source of funds, so don’t overdo it.

Don’t actively break clear rules set by the parents.  If they have a “no treats before meals” policy and you’re sneaking your grandchild the party-size bag of Snickers, think of your motivation.  Are the rules unfair, or is it that you can’t bear to refuse your delightful toddler grandson anything he asks for.

5.  Don’t spend a fortune

As a grandparent, seeing the raft of baby equipment, clothes and toys can trigger an itchy credit card finger.  As a mother of sons, I was overjoyed to have granddaughters and a whole new level of things to purchase.

If you want to buy a gift, consult with the parents first.  Keep presents appropriate and affordable.

6.  Manage long distance

There’s a good chance your son or daughter live a good few hours drive away – or even further.  Luckily it’s possible to have a happy, ongoing relationship with a far-away family thanks to Skype and FaceTime.  It’s essential that a grandparent learn to use the tools to help them bridge the distance.  There are many ways to keep in touch.

I love the ad where the Grandpa is reading a bedtime story to his granddaughter on Skype.

Send a card for no reason, personally addressed to the child.  Call the child directly, not as an afterthought at the end of the parent’s chat time.

For older children, comment on their social media posts.  Use FaceBook, text or email older kids asking about events in their lives.

7. Build good relationships

Being a good grandparent is not all about the gifts and candies.  It’s about quality time and fun activities too.  Grandparents can provide a different role than the child’s parents.  The most important focus is to build a strong, loving relationship with your grandchildren so they know you can be relied on and you’re always there for them and support their choices without being judgemental.

Show an interest in your grandchild’s hobbies and dreams.  Find out what they’re up to.  Be there to listen to their stories and encourange their enthusiasms.

Cherish the time you spend with them as these moments will make precious memories for each of you to look back on.

8.  Plan activities to do together

Know what you’re going to do with your grandchildren before they arrive.  Try to do something their parents wouldn’t normally do with them. 

Do outdoor activities together – go to the park, the zoo, farmer’s market, etc.  Be the adventurous grandparent and delight them everytime they visit.

Introduce them to something you love to do – cooking, fishing, gardening, art. Or, learn something new together.

Sit them down with a photo album and tell anecdotes about each person in your family.  Tell stories about when you were little and about your child (their parent) that may relate to the child’s age or circumstance.

Make sure there is something for them to do as they hate being bored, and you don’t want their faces focused on a video game the whole time ther’re with you.

Related:  Grandparents and Holiday Gifts

The bottom line

The cornerstone of being a good grandparent is respect – for your own time, for the parents’ wishes, and of course, for your grandchildren.

You already went through parenthood.  Now you can relax a little and focus on having fun with your grandkids.  Spoil them a little.  Make them feel special.

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4 Responses

  1. Ken says:

    My 3 grandchildren, aged 4 to 8, all live within a couple of miles of me. Every Saturday morning I have them for 3 hours. We go to the playground, sometimes a movie and other local events but the thing we do most often is go to the public library where they take out a book and then we go to my place to read stories.. They love it as do I and I think it is very positive for them.

    • Marie Engen says:

      Hi Ken. What a wonderful tradition you’ve started. It’s not only a great experience for you to spend time with your little ones, I’m sure they will treasure your time together all their lives. You are indeed a “super grandparent.”

  2. Brian Hall says:

    Great wisdom and advice. I say I’m selfish about grand parenting because it is great therapy and reminds us all to enjoy everyday. I have a closer relationship with my children because of the grandchildren. Thank you for sharing

    • Marie Engen says:

      Wise words Brian. I don’t think you’re being selfish. If benefits everyone – all three generations – to have a close relationship with your grandkids.

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