The next step is sharing your vision statement with parents.
Have you written your grandparent vision statement? Last week, we talked about why that’s an important first step in committing to your role as a grandparent. The next step is both simple and, for some, difficult: sharing your vision with your grandchild’s parents. The easy part is this: once you’ve got your vision written down, send them an email with the details. In that email, or in a follow up conversation, explain why you wrote it and what it means to you. That might be the hard part for you—because it may feel as if you are sharing something personal. But it is incredibly important to share it, for more than one reason.
Sharing shows you value your role as part of a team.
Too often, parents feel cast aside once they provide you with a grandchild. It’s hard for many of us to lift our focus from the enchanting being that has entered our lives! By sharing your vision statement with them, you let parents know that you value your relationship to them in their role as parents. It shows that you recognize that they are the key to realizing your goals as a grandparent, and sets the groundwork for a relationship based on mutual respect.
How to plan for a glorious grandparent journey
Have you ever planned a vacation?
Whether you are the type of person who likes to map out your days in detail, or prefer a loose itinerary with plenty of room for improvisation, you still need to decide a couple of things in advance: where you are going and how you are going to get there. Without those crucial bits of planning, you run the risk of never getting anywhere worthwhile.
Your journey as a grandparent is no different. Sure, you can just ride along and see where it takes you, but if you truly want to foster a strong, lasting bond with your grandchildren, it takes planning and preparation. Neither of these things is hard, especially when the result is so rewarding.
What does planning for your grandparent journey look like? It starts with a vision statement. This affirmation should describe how you hope to impact your grandchildren and family. Think of it as a way to write out your goals and hopes for the kind of grandparent you want to be. The business world has some guidelines about the proper form and wording, (one of my communications clients spent weeks fighting amongst themselves over whether or not a vision statement had to start with the word “to”), but your grandparent vision statement can take any form that feels right to you. Aim for short, simple, and specific, but don’t get bogged down trying to make it beautiful.
Show your family how important they are
Drive-by baby showers. Virtual Passover Seders. Birthday parades. Halloween scavenger hunts.
We’ve gotten creative about celebrating holidays safely this year. But our biggest holiday challenges lie ahead, and it’s time for grandparents to make a plan for them.
Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hannukah celebrations center on the time we spend with the people we care most about. They are important holidays for making memories and sharing traditions. If you’ve always gathered for Christmas dinner at Grandma’s house, it’s hard to imagine the holiday meal anywhere else, or without everyone at the table.
Like most military families, my family and I have had our fair share of holidays far from extended family. I’ve had Christmas dinners on an airplane, in a Chinese restaurant in Rome, and with only a sick child as my companion. These years stand out not because they were sad or lonely meals, but because we found ways to celebrate even when we had to deviate from tradition.
This year, we all need put science over tradition, adjust our expectations, and find new ways to celebrate with—or without—the ones we love.
The expectations are the biggest hurdle for many of us. The human brain is a champion of justifying what it wants to do, even if science, common sense and its best friend are telling them it’s a bad idea. So if you really want to have everyone home for Thanksgiving, you can easily convince yourself that it’s not that risky because everyone has been “really careful” and you’ll keep the can of Lysol handy.
Unfortunately, the science we’ve accumulated on Covid tells us there is no way to share a meal inside safely, so if anyone is carrying the virus, everyone is at risk. If we truly feel that nothing is more important than our families, then we need to do everything we can to keep them safe. It’s up to us as grandparents to safeguard the health of ourselves, our parents, our children and our grandchildren. And this year, for many of us, that means not gathering them around our table.
Now is the time to talk to your families. If you are lucky enough to already be in a bubble with your family, keep your celebrations to just that bubble. Let other family members know that you won’t be visiting, and that you realize it’s safer if they celebrate without you. Share your recipes, share your memories, share what you are thankful for—but don’t risk sharing this virus.
Grandparents Can Be the Superheroes This Halloween
What will Halloween look like for your grandchildren this year? Because of Covid, Halloween parties are out, and trick-or-treating is being discouraged in many communities. There are a lot of little ghosts and goblins that are going to be disappointed this year—unless someone comes to the rescue!
Grandparents, here’s your chance! Why not start a new family Halloween tradition with one of the following ideas?
Do you think your children are better parents than you were? Odds are, you don’t. According to a 2018 study by AARP, a startling three in four grandparents disagree with the statement, “In general, parenting today is better than it was.” They believe that discipline is worse than it used to be, and that parents today are both too lax and too overprotective.
Luckily, most grandparents respect boundaries and hold their tongue even when they disagree.
Most, but far from all. Another recent study, this time of parents, shows that disagreements about parenting choices are common.
In an August 2020 Mott Poll Report, 43% of parents report asking a grandparent to change their behavior to be consistent with the parents’ choices and rules. Although the Mott Poll Report doesn’t give specific examples of the conflicts, some of the disagreements parents have shared with me include:
“She’d never use the clothing or skincare products or diapers/wipes that we sent with her, and my daughter would get rashes.”
A couple of months ago, I joined a monthly membership for long-distance grandparents. It promised to provide me with ways to make sure I was a part of my grandchildren’s life, to help me build strong and meaningful bonds, and to make sure my grandchildren and I really knew each other. It promised to equip me with activities that would ensure I always had something to send to them, something to say to them when we talked, and something to play despite the miles between us.
It seemed like a tall promise, and my expectations weren’t high. But the price seemed like a small investment if it delivered even half of what it promised. After all, the relationship with my grandchildren is priceless, and I’d gladly pay far more than $20 a month to strengthen that bond. So I signed up.
Let me tell you, The Long Distance Grandparent Society delivered on every promise, and more. What I got:
To say that the membership materials exceeded my expectations is an understatement. But there was a bigger surprise for me.
The Long Distance Grandparent Society also offers a private Facebook group with monthly Zoom chats for its members. I typically don’t participate in groups like this, but I joined with the plan to lurk. When the first Grand Chat rolled around, I logged on knowing that the chance of my introverted self contributing to a conversation with strangers was practically nil.
What I found was not a group of strangers, but a group of people who understand what it is like to be a grandparent who cannot see their grandchildren as often as they’d like. People from all over the world who exchange ideas and offer support and encouragement. These monthly calls have quickly turned into a highlight for all of us.
As one of the members said, “None of my friends really get it. They all say, ‘At least you have FaceTime!’ They don’t seem to understand why that’s not enough to keep me from missing them.”
If you are a grandparent who is missing their grandchildren, whether it’s due to distance or Covid-19, the Long Distance Grandparent Society can help bring you closer. It can’t replace the hugs, but it can add laughter, love and meaning to your days. And it will connect you with others who know what you are going through.
The membership doors are now open for a few days: for more information, visit their page.
Services to Help New Parents When Grandparents Can’t Be There
A few of you have asked us to recap the posts that covered the many ways that grandparents can help out if they can’t be there physically when a new baby arrives. Work schedules, finances, geography, ill health—not to mention a pandemic: there are many reasons why you may not be able to be on the scene to help the new parents. That doesn’t mean you can’t help out, though. Here’s a quick run down of the services we covered in past weeks:
Katie Clark, a Certified Lactation Educator through CAPPA, leads us through the services a lactation expert can provide to new mothers, and how grandparents can make sure parents get the support they need. Read the post.
Sheryl Cooksley of Family Tree Doula Services explains the emotional, physical, and instructional support that doulas can provide to new parents. She shares how grandparents can get involved in the process of finding a doula to join the new family support team. Read the post.
Family sleep consultant
A new mom shares her experience with Rest to Your Nest’s Mary Cantwell, a family sleep coach who crafted a plan to address the family sleep challenges. Because everything is easier with enough sleep! Read the post.
Meals, house cleaning, and laundry
Meal prep services abound, and there is one for every budget and palate. Home cleaning services are widely available, and having someone else mop the floor and scrub the shower is a true gift to new parents. Almost every town has a dry cleaners or laundromat that offers “wash, dry and fold”, and many offer pick up and delivery—making this service even more convenient. Read the post.
Are there any other services grandparents can help provide when they can’t be there in person? Please leave a comment if you know of any to add to the list!
65% of grandparents use Facebook—the same rate as the rest of the population. Clearly, the image of the teenager having to help his grandmother set up a Facebook account is outdated. Even the great-grandparents are on social media now.
There’s a good reason: Social media is a convenient and powerful way to stay in touch with family and friends. For grandparents, it’s also a bridge between generations. You may not be on the scene for all the milestones of your new grandbaby’s life, but if mom or dad is posting updates on Facebook, you’ll see them almost as they happen. You may not get regular phone calls from your granddaughter, but if she lets you follow her on Instagram, you’ll get a carefully curated glimpse into her life.
These interactions can strengthen your relationships. Knowing what is going on in your family’s world helps spark conversation. It also allows you to offer support when they may need it, without them having to ask. This is especially valuable when your grandchildren are teenagers and young adults, but it’s important to know how to navigate the intricacies of social media etiquette. Even making or accepting a friend request can be a landmine!