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!
You do everything you can to keep your grandchildren safe.
You pay attention to the way they sleep, make sure the car seat is installed correctly, and don’t let them ride off on their bike without their helmet. But there are dangers in the world that go beyond the physical—and one is a danger that didn’t exist when your own children were young. If you are one of the 75% of grandparents who use social media, you may be endangering your grandchildren in a way you never considered.
Facebook and Instagram have replaced the pictures of their grandchildren that grandmothers used to carry. Now instead of pulling out their wallet to show off the latest, grandparents share those photos with their friends on social media. And unless they are very careful with their privacy settings, they are also sharing them with the world. But it’s not just the photos that are shared—it’s the information that goes with them.
A million children in the US were victims of identity theft in 2017. Too many grandparents post photos on social media with information that exposes their children and grandchildren to identity theft and hackers.
Personally identifiable information should be treated like gold, and yet every day I see public posts announcing the birth of a baby with full name and birth date mentioned. Many of these posts make it easy to figure out birthplace and mother’s maiden name, too.
That proud and unsuspecting grandparent has just handed a potential identity thief four of the most useful pieces of information they could want. Even with your privacy settings set as securely as possible, nothing that is posted on the internet is truly secure.
It doesn’t take a pandemic to keep grandparents from being able to help out after a new baby arrives. Work schedules, finances, geography, ill health—there are many reasons why you may not be able to be on the scene to support new parents. But there are still ways you can help! So far we've covered hiring a postpartum doula, sleep consultant and household help.
Today Katie Clark of The Breastfeeding Mama shares how breastfeeding support can help new mothers.
According to a UC Davis study, the vast majority of new moms report having trouble breastfeeding - around 92%. Through my own experience, the number one thing that helped when I was struggling to breastfeed my own children was support - especially from my own mother.
Breastfeeding and infant nutrition recommendations have changed over the years, and the prevalence of breastfeeding has increased as well. This may make it difficult for grandparents to know the best way to support their breastfed grandchild and his or her parents, especially if they aren’t familiar with breastfeeding.
To a new mom, just knowing she has someone in her corner cheering her on can make a bad day a little bit easier. Even if the new mom isn’t struggling with something specific, the early days of breastfeeding can be exhausting! Kind words go a long way.
How Can Grandparents Help?
First of all, be gentle - new moms have tons of hormones and emotions that are all over the place. Even if she’s doing something different than you did, try to be kind in your recommendations.
Be encouraging - simply having someone say, “I’m here for you” can make a world of difference. Saying something like, “Just give a bottle” or “Formula works just fine!” might not be the best approach. There may come a time when a mother needs to be told it’s okay to stop breastfeeding, but I would avoid jumping to that at the first sign of trouble. The vast majority of breastfeeding problems have solutions with the right support.
Encourage the new mom to take a breastfeeding class and attend with them if they need you to. Online breastfeeding classes are affordable, can be taken at home, and are a good resource for grandparents who want to be as helpful as possible.
Educate yourself - there’s so much information available on breastfeeding these days. My favorite website is KellyMom.com for up-to-date information on pretty much every topic related to breastfeeding. I also have many useful articles on my websites, The Breastfeeding Mama and Clarks Condensed. Breastfeeding Essentials is one of our mini classes that might be especially helpful for a grandparent.
Offer to find help - if you see a mother struggling, reaching out for help might be difficult for her. Being sleep deprived and overwhelmed, she might not even know where to start. Thankfully, there are a lot of lactation specialists available these days, so when you find you can’t offer the support you want, you can help direct a new mom in the right direction. It can be a little overwhelming to know exactly what each kind of lactation specialists does, so here is an overview of the three main categories:
When each of my first two grandchildren was born, I went to help my son and his wife for the first week or so. I did all the things my mother had done for me: keeping up with the laundry, fixing meals and filling the freezer, sweeping floors and doing dishes. My third grandchild, however, arrived just days before the nation shut down because of Covid-19—and all the help I wanted to give was impossible.
Luckily, I had visited the month before and the freezer was full for the first couple of weeks after the baby arrived. But as time has worn on, I’ve looked for ways to help without actually being there. If you can’t be where help is needed, there are a variety of services that can fill in for you. Read on for some services you can offer to arrange if your grandbaby’s parents are open to them.