And yet, the road is often rocky…..
an exclusive feature by Bonnie Compton*
The role of being a grandparent is quite possibly one of the best adventures of life! Maybe you’ve longed to be a grandparent and now the time has finally come, or you might already be deep in the trenches. Wherever you are in your journey, it’s always a good idea to step back and explore yourself as a grandparent.
Grandparenting has changed over the years and so it’s important to be open to change. Perhaps you envisioned yourself being the fun playful grandparent without the responsibility of parenting. Maybe you thought you might be your grandchild’s best friend and confidante. Whatever role you envisioned, chances are your hopes and dreams were created even before the baby came into your life. It’s natural to envision your role; and yet as a grandparent you may have forgotten to ask your adult children how they envision your grandparenting role.
As a child & adolescent therapist and parent coach, I often work with parents who are frustrated and confused about this very topic.
- Grandparents often assume that their adult kids view their grandparenting role in the same manner they might, because there was no clear communication before the child arrived, and there were assumptions created rather than expectations. Perhaps the grandparent thought they would be there to be the loving playful grandparent, whereas the parents of the child assumed they’d also be available to babysit. This assumption often occurs when a grandparent loved being a parent! Adult children assume that they’ll love taking care of their grandchild as much as they did their own children. I’ve worked with many grandparents who are tired and overwhelmed because of the amount of time spent babysitting. Often they do not talk or create conversation with their own children out of fear they may not be able to see their grandchildren.
- On the other hand, I’ve worked with parents of younger children who wish their parents were more involved as grandparents — not only to help out, but to be a loving presence in their children’s lives. Or, they feel the grandparents are spending far too much time with other grandchildren in the family. This often causes friction between family members. One mom recently told me, “My parents are always babysitting for my sister’s kids, but never seem to have time for mine!”
Whether you’re a parent or a grandparent, creating honest and open conversations can eliminate a lot of frustration and heartache. Share your individual wishes and see how they align. Also, be flexible and open to suggestions.
Here are some tips to help you avoid conflict and create a healthy grandparent relationship:
- Before you take on the role as grandparent, be clear with yourself and your adult kids as to what you can and cannot do. Perhaps you don’t want to be the babysitter. Don’t assume they can read your mind. Offer your support and assistance, while being clear with your own boundaries as a grandparent.
- Remember, you already had your chance to parent. Your adult children are going to parent in their own way and are doing the best they can. Avoid giving unsolicited advice! However, if they ask for your advice, simply answer their question without judgment.
- Acknowledge that parenting is not easy but that they’re doing a great job (even if you don’t agree with everything they’re doing)
- Respect their boundaries and don’t step into the middle…between a grandchild and their parent or between the two parents. If they ask for your assistance, ask them to be clear about how they think you can help the situation.
- If there are unresolved family issues, resolve them immediately for the sake of the family.
Keep working on your role and relationships. Adult kids still need their parents and kids need their grandparents. And of course, you too will benefit by having all of your loved ones in your life!
*GRANDparenting Rocks! is an exclusive feature for Grandparentslink.com by BONNIE COMPTON, APRN, BC, CPNP. Bonnie has worked with families for more than thirty years as a child and adolescent therapist, parent coach, and pediatric nurse practitioner and is passionate about making a difference in the lives of children and families. In doing so, Bonnie helps parents and grandparents to create healthy boundaries and relationships. She is a writer, speaker, workshop and retreat facilitator, and hosts her own podcast radio program, Wholehearted Parenting Radio, which is available on iTunes, Web Talk Radio, Radioactive Broadcasting Network, and Stitcher Radio. Bonnie lives in Charleston, SC, with her husband. She is a mom of four adult children and believes that being a mother has been her most important job, and loves being Gramma to her three beautiful granddaughters. Bonnie is also the author of a new book, Mothering with Courage. https://www.amazon.com/Mothering-Courage-Mindful-Approach-Becoming/dp/1944822631/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1509394443&sr=8-1&keywords=mothering+with+courage