Your duties as a grandparent are divided among your grandchildren, your children, and yourself. Here are some ideas to benefit you all.
For your grandchildrenOffer them unconditional love
Let them know you value them for who they are, not what they’re capable of doing. Be proud of your grandson's batting average or school grades. But love him no matter what. When a child seems the least lovable, that's the time when he needs your love most. Give him a hug. Be loving, in good times and bad. You can be a rock of emotional support in the stormy sea of childhood.
Be their comfort zone
Hooray! Being a grandma or grandpa means no more endless battles with kids! You can be the softy. Not exactly good cop/bad cop, but an all-around comfort zone—an escape from the day-to-day realities of discipline and growing up.
Give them validation
You can give the Grandparents' Stamp of Approval to everything good your grandchild does. Everyday battles over putting toys away can evolve into proud accomplishments when you validate the behavior. Pleasing you is special. With you to brag to, those tough tasks will not seem so hard after all.
When you've seen it all before, it takes a lot to raise your eyebrows. Your grandson's imaginary dinosaur isn't so alarming when you think back to your daughter's invisible friend. Offer this tolerance to your grandchild, and your daughter will be able to relax as well.
Spend time together
Oh, where do the hours go? Your children are rushing between work, family, and friends. The phone, the groceries, the jobs ... the only thing that doesn't stop is the clock. Most parents dream of leisurely picnics in the park with the kids. Didn't you? Now is your chance. Being a grandparent means you get to savor the time you have to hang out with your grandchildren. You can have real conversations about the cosmos and their place in it. The more you know them, the better you'll like them.
For your childrenProvide emotional support
Good parenting is a difficult task. Just as children need parents for support, parents also need someone to turn to. Who can they call when the baby cries all night—or finally sleeps through? Encourage your children to turn to you, in good times and bad.
Be their pressure valve
When your children are on overload, you can be a lifesaver by being able to take the kids for a while. Or if you’re far away, act as a sounding board and help them put things in perspective. You don't need to be a professional to help your children; being a caring grandparent is enough.
Enjoy your role as hero or heroine
You are the best one to call in an emergency. You know where everything is ... and you care. Even if you can't be present physically, you can help an adrenaline-addled parent solve a problem with your wise suggestions.
It's true: finally, you can be friends. When your focal length extends past your child to your grandchild, all the old parental stress can loosen up. If you let it, it dissolves into thin air—at least enough to start a new, improved relationship … a friendship.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education
Parenting advice is given as a suggestion only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider.