Being a supportive, loving grandparent starts during the pregnancy
What’s the best thing to do while you wait for your grandbaby to be born? If you answered, “Buy stuff for the baby!”, you’d be in good company.
But you’d also be wrong.
The months before a baby’s birth are a complicated time for expectant parents, especially with their first baby. They are preparing for a major life change: one that’s physical, mental, emotional, financial and more. There are things they need far more than baby clothes, and grandparents are the perfect people to provide that assistance.
Your role as a supportive grandparent starts as soon as you see that ultrasound picture or get that phone call. Now is the time to set up habits that will help you avoid common grandparent mistakes and become an integral part of your grandchild’s life.
While you wait for your grandbaby to be born, here are the best things to do to show your adult children that you want to be supportive partners when they become parents:
An open dialog about your role as a grandparent is a crucial ingredient in a happy, healthy family. New parents are often hesitant to set boundaries with grandparents, because they’ve spent a lifetime as the “child” in the relationship. One of the kindest things you can do for new parents is to show your willingness to respect parent boundaries by initiating the conversation and asking what those boundaries are. (Partnering with Parents, part of New Grandparent Essentials, gives you all the questions you should ask and the best way to ask them.)
Help with projects
The closer it gets to a baby arriving, the longer parents’ task list seems to be. If you are a local grandparent, offer to help tackle that list. While parents usually enjoy doing things to prepare for the baby themselves, you can help in other ways. Show you understand your supporting role by raking the yard while they assemble the crib or dropping off dinner when they are painting the nursery. The key is to make concrete offers and not be hurt if your assistance isn’t needed or appreciated.
Fill the freezer
Stocking the freezer before baby’s birth is a great way to help new parents. Healthy meals and snacks that require little to no preparation are a life-saver in those early weeks. Read this blog post for lots of ideas and recipes!
A lot has changed since you had a baby! It’s exhausting to new parents to have to constantly explain why they aren’t doing things the same way grandparents did. Read up on the latest child care and safety recommendations. You can also follow parenting experts on social media. Some of my favorites are @safeintheseat, @pedsdoctalk, and @safebeginnings. Your goal is to learn about the most current recommendations for your own information. Don’t try to educate the parents, though asking what they think about what you are learning is fine.
Support their mental health
There is a mental health crisis right now, and new parents are especially vulnerable. Learn about warning signs of anxiety and depression, and encourage your adult child to seek professional help if you are worried. Encourage them to research therapists before the baby is born, in case they need help afterwards. Don’t be the parent who wonders what they did wrong if their adult child decides to see a therapist.
Buy gifts for them
Yes, those baby clothes are nearly irresistible. But before you blow your budget on those, consider spending money on gifts that will truly support new parents. Gift certificates for a prenatal massage or a dinner out while they are still childless are two great ideas. I love giving moms-to-be the Postpartum Planning Toolkit from Like A Sister. They’ve got other great offers for supportive gifts, like personalized feeding classes and post-partum doula support.
And of course, our own digital grandparenting guide, New Grandparent Essentials, is the ultimate way to prepare to be a supportive grandparent while you are waiting for the baby. It will give you the questions you need to ask to help set boundaries, the latest in child care and safety, and resources for further information and inspiration.
The anticipation of a new grandbaby is an exciting time. If you use this time to establish patterns of communication and support that focus on the parents, by the time the baby arrives you will have proven that you are someone they can count on as they raise your precious grandchild.