Tips for supporting new parents with love and encouragement
When I wrote last week about the importance of showing your love for your grandchildren’s parents, I had a reader ask for specific ideas, especially for those of us at a distance. This week, I want to share some of those ideas!
1. Offer to help out—the right way.
Don’t just say, “Let me know if I can help.” Very few people will ever take you up on such an offer, and your own children are often less likely to do so. Rather, suggest specific ways you could help. Of course, this can be tricky, because there is always the risk that your offer will be translated as a criticism. If you were to say, “I’d love to pay for a housecleaning service”, there is every chance that what your daughter-in-law will hear is “You are a terrible housekeeper.”
Instead, try saying something like this: “I’d love to do something to help lighten your load. Would you be interested in some help with laundry, or housekeeping, or maybe a meal service?” Or “I remember how hard it is to have any time to yourself and I’d love to do something to help you. Can I pay for a sitter/watch the baby so you can go get a massage?”
There are more ways to help new parents in this post, but make sure your offer to help is presented in a judgement-free way. “I stumbled on an article about family sleep consultants. Did you know they existed? Look into it and see if it’s something that might interest you—I’d be happy to help cover the cost. I wish I’d know about them when I had little ones!” This is more likely to succeed than, “It must be hard (judgement alert!) to have Harvey still waking up so much at night. Let me hire a sleep consultant to get him sorted out.”
2. Send them a surprise.
Everyone loves an unexpected gift. This can be as simple as a postcard with an inspirational quote or as fancy as a box of spa products. If you worry about buying something they won’t appreciate, ask them to fill out this cheat sheet. Or try the “Old Navy is having a sale on summer dresses/flannel shirts/slippers—if you let me know what size, I’d love to buy you one!”
Also, look and listen for ways to do something random and thoughtful. When my son was without power for several days and relying on their gas grill to cook, not really sure when the propane would give out, my husband sent him a propane gauge, a $17 male declaration of “I love you.”
3. Compliment them.
A heartfelt compliment can go a long way towards making someone feel loved. What sort of compliments are best? Anything that reinforces what they feel is important, which, right now, is probably their parenting. As one mother shared with me, “The best compliment I have gotten is when my in-laws find research or an article that supports a parenting decision we have made, and then they share it with us and say we are doing a good job.”
4. Use your words.
Yes, just as you told them when they were four, remember to use your words. Tell them you love them, that you support them, and that they are important to you. Tell them you are proud of them, that they are succeeding at being parents, and that you are there for them if they ever need you.
Making an effort to honor the relationships with your adult children will create a spirit of partnership that can only strengthen your bond to your grandchildren. While you are at it, make sure you are doing the same for all of your children—even the ones who haven’t blessed you with grandchildren!
Do you have other suggestions? Please share them in the comments!