Becoming a grandparent can be one of the sweetest things in life. Grandparents often have a rejuvenating glow when they talk about their grandchildren. Usually the joys of grandparenthood come without the same stresses of parenting. In fact:
- The worries that burden us about our own children don’t weigh as heavy with our grandchildren.
- The responsibility we feel as parents doesn’t carry over to the time we spend with our grandchildren.
- Often we feel more hopeful about our relationships with our grandchildren than we do about the relationships with our own children.
But sometimes, old resentments and disappointments can get in the way of feeling close to our grown children. Patty Wipfler notes: “Cleaning up our discomforts and leftover issues with our children and their partners is vital. It will help us build trust, help us be supportive, and help us continue to improve our relationships with our children and their significant others, which makes our grandchildren’s lives better, for sure.”
And while we clean up our issues about our grown children, here are some important things to keep in mind:
- Instead of always making a b-line for the grandchildren when you walk in the door, put time and energy into your relationship with your own kids. Take them out to lunch at their favorite bistro or slip out for a cup of coffee. Join them in something that they like to do and appreciate who they’ve turned out to be. Patty Wipfler says:
“Being attentive to the parents of our grandchildren means noticing what they do well, noticing how hard they try, noticing the stresses and strains on them, and finding little ways to let them know that we ‘see’ them and appreciate them and the monumental job they’re doing as parents.”
This may also mean taking the grandchildren on a regular basis if you live nearby, folding a basket of laundry, doing a sink full of dirty dishes, cooking a meal on a regular basis, or stopping at the store to pick up groceries for our children’s family.
- And while you show your love and appreciation, listen a lot, and refrain from offering advice. No matter how much good information you have, unless your son, daughter, daughter-in-law, or son-in-law asks for advice, sadly it’s often taken as a criticism.
- If you live far away, find ways to keep the connection alive. Some grandparents regularly Skype with their grandchildren. I know one grandfather who lives several hours from his grandson, but via Facetime he reads to his grandson five nights a week before bed. He continues to do this even now that he is ten!
Sometimes grandparents need support in working through the things that didn’t go well in their parenting. Often grandparents have regrets and their children have resentments—issues that create distance between grandparents and their grown children. But the more a grandparent can work through their disappointment of what didn’t go well, the more they can be present for their children’s families.
They can offer one on one time to their children, help with the day-to-day drudgery of parenting, and simply make a commitment to be there and appreciate their children and the grandkids.
Wipfler says, “making a commitment to be there in some way, just because parenting is an enormous task and you know it, is something our children and their partners can feel, something that will reach their hearts.”