Cindy waited for years to become a grandmother, and it finally happened last May. She finally understood what her friends had been talking about when they said being a grandparent was the best thing ever: Her grandson was the light and love of her life.
But unlike many of her friends, Cindy didn’t get the one-on-one time with her grandson that she’d hoped for. Her offers to babysit were ignored or politely declined. She’d never had a close relationship with the baby’s mother, and the arrival of the baby didn’t magically change that. She could tell her daughter-in-law didn’t trust her with the baby.
It was doubly hard when she found out that the other grandmother, her daughter-in-law’s mother, was babysitting every week. Cindy was worried she’d never have the special relationship with her grandson that she dreamed of.
While we may never know why Cindy wasn’t trusted by her daughter-in-law, we have seen some issues that are cited over and over on parenting forums. If you are wondering why parents won’t trust you with their baby, read on and make sure you haven’t ignored these foundations for being a trusted grandparent.
Commit to safety
For some parents, leaving their baby with anyone else is frightening. They need extra assurance that you will keep their baby safe in their absence. Let them know you have read up on current baby care and safety, and take the steps necessary to make your home a safe place. (The Baby Care & Safety section of New Grandparent Essentials has everything you need to know in one resource—you can get it here.)
Make sure you are prepared for emergencies. Take an infant child CPR class & a choking class. While these classes are valuable to all grandparents, they are vital to any grandparent who will be caring for their grandchild. Also, have Poison Control programmed into your phone. In fact, grab your phone and do that right now: 1-800-222-1222.
Another aspect of safety is more personal. If you are a smoker, use drugs, or drink heavily, parents will likely be hesitant to place their baby in your care. Perception here matters: you may not think that bottle of wine you have with dinner counts as drinking heavily, but parents might.
Be physically able
Many parents are hesitant to leave their baby with a grandparent who has physical limitations. That’s one of the reasons we encourage grandparents to focus on their own health and fitness. If you haven’t made staying fit a priority in your life, there’s no better reason than a grandbaby. Work with your health care provider to develop a program that will give you the strength, endurance and flexibility you will need.
For grandparents who have limitations that lifestyle choices can’t change, you may need to work with parents to create a plan to keep those limitations from affecting your ability to care for the baby.
Know your role
It’s important to parents that anyone who takes care of their baby will respect their parenting decisions. For grandparents, this means recognizing that they may do things differently (even wrong, in your opinion!), but that your job is to support their choices. Hopefully, you’ve set the stage for this by asking questions and listening openly to their answers. Think of yourself as a student of this new family, and work to learn all you can about their needs and limits. Parents will only trust you if they know that you respect their boundaries.
Find out exactly which questions to ask and how to ask them in Partnering with Parents, one of the cornerstones of New Grandparent Essentials.
Doing these three things will go a long way towards showing parents that you understand the privilege of caring for your grandchild. Still, grandparents must understand that even these steps may not be enough for some parents—and that’s their privilege.
But don’t worry. While some grandparents crave one-on-one time with their grandbaby, it certainly isn’t a requirement for a close relationship. If you aren’t able to care for your grandbaby, you’ll find many other ways to become a special person in his or her life.
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