When should grandparents speak up if they are worried about their grandchild’s health or safety?
It’s normal to sometimes worry about our grandchildren. That’s what we do when there is someone we love!
But what do you do if you are truly worried about their health or safety, and you can’t decide whether to speak up? Being an interfering grandparent can carry a high price, and it may not be one you want to pay. Before you start a conversation with your grandchild’s parents, here are some things to consider.
First, take your relationship out of the equation. If this were an acquaintance’s child, would you tell them they need to make their child wear a helmet when they are on their bike? If the answer is no, then you probably shouldn’t say anything.
If it is yes, then you have to consider if this is an issue worth making waves about. No matter how solid your relationship with your adult children is, your criticism will be hard for them to take. While you may view speaking up as concern, telling your son you don’t think it’s safe for the kids to play in the front yard unsupervised is a criticism of his parenting choices.
"My experience of being a grandma has underscored how we can have all the plans in the world about what our grandparenting journey will be, but we need to be willing to pivot as life throws us new challenges."
One of the things we encourage at More Than Grand is creating a formal Grand Vision as the first step to becoming the grandparent you want to be. But as today’s guest writer shares, no matter what your vision of grandparenting is, you have to be ready to abandon Plan A and embrace Plan B—and possibly more of the alphabet.
by Marilee Whiting Woodfield
I had a vision in my mind about what grandparenting was like from watching my own grandparents, and then my parents and in-laws as they grandparented my children. I thought I knew what grandparenting was all about, or at least what it would look like.
Our life was 1200 miles from both sets of grandparents in a pre-internet and cellphone era, so we did not have the advantage of having them in our lives regularly. We supplemented with videos, letters and phone calls, but realistically, Grandparenting looked like long-distance relationships and occasional visits for my children.
My father once remarked, “You shouldn’t have to be introduced to your grandchildren.” I felt the same regret at not having those close relationships. To complicate matters, my first child took a while to warm to having semi-strangers in her space —strangers that desperately wanted to spend their time and attention on her. More than once she’d finally let them befriend her on the last day of their visit, only to have them leave again. And we would repeat the whole process the next time they arrived.
When my first grandson was born, he lived far away. Fortunately, I had access to Skymiles and took advantage of the opportunity that my circumstances allowed by visiting often. The blessing of technology allowed me to be “there” nearly daily (and some days more than once) through FaceTime calls which filled in as the next best thing when I couldn’t be there in person.
I would spend a few days and then return to my life at home which was quiet. Other than regular FaceTime calls, and an occasional visit, my life and my grandparenting life were separated. The toys were tucked away, there were no goldfish crackers and applesauce pouches in my pantry, and the Pack ’n Play grew dust on the top shelf of the closet.
Recently, job change opportunities for my kids brought all my grandkids close to home and that meant a series of new grandparenting pivots. One of my grandkids and his parents moved in with us for a short time while they were navigating housing, which meant I got to grandparent full time. The quiet house was filled with a new level of activity that all revolved around a 1-year-old grandchild. Safety gates went up, the toys took a central stage, diapers piled up in the trash bin, and the basket of children’s books grew. Mealtimes, naptimes, and bedtimes all became a part of the daily rhythm of life. My other grandchild lived a short drive away, and we wore a steady path on the road between our homes. Weekends were full of family and grandkids and the resulting chaos of clamoring cousins and a home full of family. Now, instead of being separated from grandparenting, my life revolved around my grandparenting.
10 Ways to Make Visits from Your Grandchildren Go Smoothly
Focus on preparation and keep expectations low to keep everyone happy when your grandchildren visit.
When is the last time your grandchildren visited? For many of us, it’s been well over a year. For some of you, your new grandbaby has never been a visitor to your home! Now that more and more of us are vaccinated and summer is approaching, many of us are looking forward to summer visits from our children and grandchildren. It’s time to think about what we can do to make sure everyone enjoys the visit—or at least departs without swearing never to return!
First, keep your expectations realistic. Yes, there will be hugs and funny faces and love flowing all day long. But there will also be crying, and small bodies whacking you behind the knees when you least expect it, and crumbs and stickiness everywhere. There will be parents having bad moments, and children having worse ones. It will not be a small slice of heaven. There will be wonderful memories made, but it will be hard work for all the adults in the house.
What can you do to make more memories and less hard work? Parents want you to know that each of the following will make their, and consequently your, life easier:
Make an effort now to make stays at your house as easy as possible for the parents. This will ensure that visits will continue long into the future. Think of it as investment: As your grandchildren get older, visits will be more and more rewarding for you.
Do you have other suggestions to make visits go smoothly? Share them in the comments!
What do parents want grandparents to know?
What do parents want from grandparents? I’ll give you a hint: it’s not baby clothes or fancy toys.
Here’s what parents DO want:
They want someone who is excited to cuddle and love their little one, who will be the head of the baby’s fan club.
They want someone who will celebrate all the milestones and easily move past the missteps their child makes as they grow up.
They want someone to pass on family stories and traditions.
They want someone who will help fill their child’s life with adventures and memories.
But most of all, parents want you to be partners as they raise their children.
They want their children to have supportive, involved grandparents. They want to know they can count on you for help or guidance when either parent or grandchild needs it. They want to know that if they talk to you about something, you’ll be open to listening and helping them. They want you to see and respect boundaries. They want to know that you understand how hard parenting a child in the digital age is, and that social media gives them more than enough unsolicited advice.
There are other things they want, and these vary wildly. Some parents want grandparents to only buy organic cotton baby clothes. Some want to keep their child away from the television news. Some want to make sure dinner is at 5:30 sharp every single day. These are the things that can be pitfalls for grandparents if we don’t know and respect them.
In our enthusiasm about being a grandparent, it can be easy to make mistakes. We may overstep our bounds, dismiss a request that seems unimportant, or rationalize something we really want to do. Our children, who even as adults still want to be loved by us, may not say anything that might rock the boat. If our missteps continue, they may pull away without us knowing why, and pull the grandchildren with them. And we are left to guess where we went wrong.
Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to guess? If we knew what to ask to avoid potential pitfalls, right from the beginning? As one of my readers wrote to me recently, “Being so new at this, I don’t know what I don’t know.”
What if I told you that this is exactly what we’ve been hard at work creating? A way for you to map a path to an open, supportive partnership with parents that will allow you to be the grandparent you want to be, and the grandparent they hope you’ll be, as well. It’s coming soon, and we can’t wait to share it with you.
In the meantime, download our free New Grandparent Checklist for some great tips for all grandparents!
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.”
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!
If you pick up Camp Grandma expecting a book to help you plan a week of fun activities for your grandchildren, you may find it lacking. If you pick it up looking for ways to deepen your relationship with your grandchildren, pass along your gifts and values, or help them become successful adults, you won’t be disappointed.
Marianne Waggoner Day approaches time with her grandchildren as a retired corporate executive. The lessons she takes from her time in the business world are among the values she wants to pass along to her four grandchildren. She established Camp Grandma to “establish a structure where my four grandkids could come together and through shared experiences truly learn about each other and maybe more about themselves.”
She compares Camp Grandma to a corporate retreat for kids, where they learn about setting agendas and goals, giving presentations, and teamwork. And while she outlines the activities she does with her grandkids, she emphasizes that the book is not meant to be a blueprint for others. Instead, she hopes readers will find the inspiration to pass our own talents to our grandchildren.
This book will be most useful for grandparents who are lucky enough to care for their grandchildren on a regular basis, or who can carve out dedicated time with them during the summer. However, the ideas are valuable for all grandparents, and I recommend you get a copy today!
Have you read Camp Grandma? What did you think?
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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: