a special feature from Kay Ziplow & Leslie Zinberg, founders
We are never too old to make mistakes, and consistently learn from them. What happens when we get too overzealous and interfere with perhaps the marriage of our children or our ideologies of parenting? Should we be so intent on having our ideas or experience shared- or should we wait to be invited to the conversation?
Thinking about boundaries as a grandparent
It can be a good idea to decide on some boundaries around your role as a grandparent. This means thinking about what you want to do and what you can do. You can start thinking even before your grandchild is born. Here are some ideas:
Talk to friends who are grandparents about what they find manageable and enjoyable.
Decide how much responsibility you’re comfortable with. For example, you might be keen to spend time with your grandchild while their parents are around, but you’re not ready to look after them on your own just yet. Or you might not want to look after them at all – and that’s OK. If your other children have or are planning to have children, think about how you can spend time with all your grandchildren and support their parents while still having some time for yourself.
Talking with your grandchild’s parents about roles and boundaries
Here are some ideas for talking about roles and boundaries with your grandchild’s parents:
Choose a time when you’re all calm and relaxed. You don’t have to make a special time to talk, though – you can bring up the issue at a time that’s good for everyone.
Ask parents what sort of help they’d like from you and listen to their ideas.
Share what you think you can and can’t do. It’s easier to offer less support to start with and increase it later if you’re able to.
If you want to be more involved, say so – but be sensitive to the needs of the new parents. For example, ‘I’d love to look after Brian while you go out for a coffee, but I understand that you might not be ready to leave him just yet’.
Speak up if you feel that the new parents want more than you can manage in your own schedule- be honest! For example, ‘I can look after Riley on Tuesday afternoons, but I have things to do on other days’.
Plan for emergencies and unexpected events. For example, be specific about when it’s OK to call you at short notice, or whether you want to be listed as a contact at your grandchild’s child care service.
Suggest a trial period if you’re concerned about taking on too much. For example, ‘Let’s try it for a month and see how it goes’.
Your changing role as a grandparent
Your role is likely to change as your grandchild gets older. This is partly because your commitments might change and also because your grandchild’s needs and interests will change too.
This means that even if you can’t or don’t want to help so much when your grandchild is little, you might be able to look forward to doing more as they get older.
For example, when your grandchild reaches school age, they might be keen to share interests and activities. So, if you’re a grandparent who wants to pass on a love of reading, teach your grandchild about gardening or take your grandchild on special outings, this might be a perfect fit.
Teenagers and adult grandchildren value your support and interest as they become more independent. You might be able to give them different points of view as they work out who they are and what they want to be.
Your role might also change if your grandchild’s family changes – for example, when they welcome a new baby or a parent starts a new job. This can lead to the family needing more or less support from you, depending on the situation.
And our most important tip for helping with grandparent shame or guilt… Take care of you. Make sure you have a life. It’s not good for you to depend on your kids and grandkids and become totally involved in their lives. It’s your time too. Have some grown-up fun!
*Portions of article sourced from: https://raisingchildren.net.au/grown-ups/grandparents/family-relationships/roles-boundaries