You might not even realize you’re doing it, but critical grandparents are rubbing their kids the wrong way.
In the early 1990s, when we were moving back to the US from being stationed overseas, we took advantage of a program that made it easy for returning service members to purchase a vehicle. Sight unseen, we purchased a Chrysler minivan and picked it up from a dealer when we arrived in North Carolina. It had all sorts of conveniences: a sliding door on the passenger side, cruise control, removable rear seats and a multi-disk CD player. It was quite the upgrade from the used Toyota Carina I’d driven in Okinawa!
Of course, all of those cool features seem laughable now. Research and technology have made amazing advances in the automotive world in the last 30 years. Integrated GPS, backup cameras, blind spot warnings: all of these make driving today easier and safer. I’d be willing to bet that the car you are driving today has all sorts of features that weren’t on the car you drove when your children were babies.
Given the chance, would you recommend that your grandchild’s parents get a car like the one you had when they were young? Of course not! You want to make sure your grandchildren are in the safest vehicle possible, the newer the better.
The automotive world is not the only place that there have been advances. Thanks to research and, yes, technology, our adult children actually do know more than we did when we were parents. They have access to better information about nutrition, sleep patterns and brain development. They know more about how to keep their babies safe in the car and at home. They have better sources for up-to-date information about social-emotional development and healthy environments.
In other words, they know what they are doing and why.
Yet grandparents are driving their kids crazy. They might not be recommending their adult children drive a 1992 minivan, but they are too often insistent that the way they did things was good enough. New parents report that they get constant pushback about their parenting choices from well-meaning, but critical, grandparents. Grandparents don’t understand why parents insist on doing things differently. They question anything that is unlike than the way they did things as a young parent, such as feeding methods and sleep philosophies and rules about discipline. Sometimes these critical grandparents’ disapproval is silent. Too often though, they let the parents know they don’t agree with how their grandchildren are being raised.
The damage this can do to the relationship between parents and grandparents is real. These little indications of a lack of respect for a parent’s choices add up, and often cause the parents to pull away. If they continue, a true falling out may occur. Grandparents find themselves wondering what they did wrong, assuming there must have been some egregious act that triggered the rift. Most often, it’s a history of behavior that drives their kids to the breaking point, not a single incident.
So next time you are tempted to roll your eyes over your “over-protective” daughter-in-law’s insistence on keeping the crib free of stuffed animals, think about the car you drove when your son was young. Then admit she probably has the advantage of information you didn’t have when you were a parent, and thank her for keeping your grandbaby safe.
Partnering with Parents, part of New Grandparent Essentials, helps you address many of the topics that can lead to parent-grandparent misunderstandings. Talking with parents about these topics up front can ensure that everyone is on the same team for your grandchild’s early years. Learn more here.
A convenient way to help new parents when they visit grandparents
It’s almost that time: summer vacation and the beginning of the grandchildren visiting season. What do grandparents need to do to get ready for these precious visitors? One of the best ways is to help new parents by minimizing the amount of stuff they need to bring with them when they visit.
I’ve written before about how helpful it is to have baby gear on hand for when your grandchildren visit. Traveling with small people is hard enough without having to lug a portable crib, car seat and baby toys along. But what if you don’t have the room to store a highchair between visits, or it doesn’t make sense to invest in a really good car seat? There’s an answer: renting baby equipment for the duration of their stay.
What Baby Equipment Do Grandparents Need?
Whether your grandchildren come to your house every day or just once a year, there are things you’ll want to have at your house to simplify visits for everyone. For babies and toddlers, a safe place to sleep and somewhere to sit during meals are probably the most important. If your grandchild and her parents are arriving by plane, having a car seat already installed when you pick them up at the airport will earn you gold stars. (Just make sure you’ve checked with the parents to confirm you get the right kind, and read both the car seat directions and your car’s owner’s manual carefully to ensure you install it correctly.)
Those three things are the most vital, but there are lots of other things that will make the visit more relaxing for everyone. Depending on the baby’s age, you may want to have safety gates or an infant bathtub. You’ll want things to keep your grandchild occupied with toys, books, an activity gym or a swing. You can make bedtime easier with a blackout curtain, noise machine or toddler night light.
If your grandchildren will visit often, it may be worth it to buy the most basic items like a portable crib and foldable high chair. But it doesn’t make sense if they only visit once a year! Luckily, you can now rent baby equipment in many places.
When you tell people your first grandchild is on the way, the first question they ask is usually, “When is it due?” The second question is invariably “What do you want to be called?” And for many grandparents, grandmothers especially, that is a hard question to answer!
Lacking any strong cultural ties, I didn’t have the easy solution of the friends who were Italian or Chinese and had traditional names to go to. Though my husband is half-Greek, YiaYia and Papou are still living, so those names are taken. I began to hope that my son and his wife would have an opinion that would make it unnecessary for me to choose. They didn’t, so I turned to the internet, sifting through lists in search of a name that sounded like something I could live with for the next 30-40 years.
Why water safety is important, and how to help your grandchildren be water safe.
Although it’s hard to believe from where I am currently sitting (it’s 42° and raining), summer is just around the corner. Before long, our grandchildren will be visiting and we’ll be spending our days by the lake. Since May is National Water Safety Month, it’s the perfect time to brush up on keeping our grandchildren safe with some water safety tips.
Don’t think you can skip this post if you don’t have a pool, spa, pond, lake, stream or ocean close by. Children can drown in just 2” of water, and children under the age of one most often drown in bathtubs, buckets or toilets. Drowning is the leading cause of accidental death for children ages 1-4, and one that can be prevented with some simple steps.
First, children need to be supervised by an adult any time water is nearby. When enjoying the pool, beach, waterpark or lake, an adult should be no more than an arm’s length away from any inexperienced or weak swimmer. However, the vast majority of drownings happen when kids don’t have permission to be in the water or adults are not supervising. Children should be closely watched if there is any possible access to water.
Remember that just being nearby is not the same as supervising. Someone needs to be dedicated to watching the children at all times, without being distracted by their phone or other people. Case in point: I was once in a hot tub chatting with four other adults, and three small children were happily jumping from side to side. We were enjoying our conversation so much that none of the adults noticed when one of the little ones started flailing. Luckily, her four-year-old sister was more vigilant than we were, and hauled her back to safety. This incident made us all realize why water safety is important.
If you do have a pool, hot tub, water feature or other body of water accessible from your property, make sure there are layers of protection in place. This starts inside the house: make sure kids can’t get outside by themselves, whether with locks or alarms or both. There should be a fence surrounding the pool and a cover on the spa, and an alarm on them as well. Make sure drain covers are safety compliant: the suction from a drain can trap even an adult.
Especially if your grandchildren will have access to water at your house, I urge you to take the Red Cross’ free online water safety course for parents and caregivers. From the Red Cross website: “The Water Safety for Parents and Caregivers Online Course focuses on developing an awareness of the risks of drowning and how to minimize those risks, especially for young children. This online course teaches parents and caregivers about the concepts of the circle of drowning prevention, water competency and the chain of drowning survival. It also provides guidance for applying water safety to common environments and situations where children are most at risk for drowning.” I promise it will be a half-hour well spent, whether you have a pool or not.
Teach kids about water safety. Grandparents are perfectly poised to pass on a respect for water. Here are some water safety tips:
Learn CPR. CPR is one of those things you never want to use, but need to know. The Red Cross now offers certification online, making it even easier for you. (Click here for more info.)
Water safety for children begins and ends with the adults who love them. These are just a few water safety tips for kids, but there are more ways to keep them safe. Please take the Red Cross’ Water Safety course and share this post with the other adults who love your grandchildren.
An Easy Way to Preserve Memories Online
Today’s post was written by Jessica McNaughton, Founder and CEO of memoryKPR, an amazing way to preserve your family’s most precious resource: memories. Look for a code for 50% off at the end of the post!
We’ve all heard, “Oh, it runs in the family” or “I get that from my grandma ''when remarking on our characteristics and traits. For me, it is my grandma’s ability to tell a good story, and my mom's desire to work hard. The stories we know about those who came before us also belong to those who come after.
As grandparents, it is part of our duty to pass down these stories. Helping our grandchildren know their history helps them know themselves and helps the history live on. Investing time and energy into capturing your memories of your ancestors (and also capturing your own memories to be shared) can have a lasting impact on a family. Research shows that children who know more about “where and who they came from” are more likely to demonstrate traits of resilience and adaptability.
Capturing our own memories helps our children and grandchildren know us better, but we also take for granted how many stories we know about our ancestors that are just living in our memories.
Here are some reasons it’s important to preserve memories of those around us:
What Could You Collect to Save Life Stories?
Many details can be collected to preserve the full story of your loved one. Their date of birth, where they grew up and lived, their family tree if possible, and more details are all important contexts to the life story of a person.
Your loved one will have other ideas of important items to collect. You may want to add your mother’s famous bread recipe, for instance, or your father’s secret to grilling the best ribs. Ask for photos to add to the collection. You can also get voice clips or videos to augment the story. Grandpa can sing a song from childhood or grandma can play her favourite tune on the piano. And don’t forget to ask what the person feels is most important to remember about them.
The details that make your loved ones special are part of their life story, and those details will keep their memory alive.
What grandparents need to know before announcing their grandchild's birth on social media.
In the digital age, the custom of mailing out birth announcements has all but vanished. Now, a baby’s birth is most often announced in a social media post. And new grandparents want to share the good news, too, especially when that baby is the first grandchild!
Before any over-excited grandparents make that announcement on Facebook, you need to remember that posting all the details of a baby’s arrival on social media is different from mailing cards to your friends and family. When someone sends a traditional physical birth announcement, the information goes to their friends. When grandparents share photos with their friends on social media, they are also sharing them with the world.
Any photo posted publicly can end up being used by anyone for anything. Even if you are very careful with your privacy settings, photos posted on social media can still end up being shared more widely than the poster intended. Your enthusiastic cousin may share your post (or take a screen shot and post it on her account)—and suddenly, an extra 1,382 people have the photo. More importantly, they may have details that should be carefully guarded.
What sort of details? Personally identifiable information (PII) is anything that an identity thief or hacker might be able to use for sinister purposes. This includes names, birthdates, birthplace and mother’s maiden name—four things that are easy to find in social media birth announcements. Even with your privacy settings set as securely as possible, nothing that is posted on the internet is truly secure. And if you think there’s no one looking for children’s PII, think again. A million children in the US were victims of identity theft in 2017.
Now that you know what not to include, there is another important thing to consider.
How do the parents feel about grandparents posting on social media?
Have you asked, and are you clear about their wishes? Parent chat boards are full of complaints about grandparents sharing pictures on social media after parents have asked them not to do so. Some parents want no photos or details posted at all. Others want only photos that don’t show their child’s face. Find out how what they want. It’s not worth social media’s dopamine rush to post a picture and damage the relationship with your adult children. Make sure you know, understand and follow the wishes of your grandchild’s parents before posting anything about their child.
When can you announce the birth of your new grandchild?
What’s the first thing excited grandparents-to-be want to do? Even before they start shopping? They want to tell the world that they are about to become a grandparent! Social media makes that easy, but it’s crucial that you wait until the parents give you a green light. This is just the first of many, many instances in which you will need to follow their lead.
Likewise, when the baby is born, wait until the parents have had a chance to post their own announcement. Ask for permission before you jump in and post your happy news, and consider waiting an extra day or two so that the parents can fully enjoy the congratulations they deserve.
To recap: Do’s and Don’ts for Announcing Your First Grandchild
To help grandparents use social media safely, More Than Grand offers a handy tip sheet for protecting your grandchild’s privacy online. You can download 6 Tips for Protecting Your Grandchildren on Social Media here.
Parents are right to insist that grandparents ask before giving a hug.
Marilyn hadn’t seen her granddaughter in six months. “I was so eager to scoop her up and plant kisses all over that chubby face!” she told me. “But as soon as I got there, my son told me I couldn’t hug her until she gave me permission. I was floored! Since when do grandmothers need the permission of a toddler to show them how much they love them?”
Welcome to another growing trend: body autonomy, also called bodily autonomy. Insisting that you ask for permission before hugging your grandchild may seem like another way for your grandchild’s parents to frustrate you, but they’ve got extremely good reasons for this request.
Body autonomy is the idea that each person has a right to decide what happens to their body without coercion or influence by anyone else. It’s important that children be taught to understand this concept from the earliest age. Why is body autonomy important for children? Because a child who feels in control of their body is less likely to become a victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault. They are less likely to become a victim of intimate partner violence later in life. And children who know they are in charge of their bodies are more likely to share any abuse or violation that may happen to them.
The sexual abuse of children is a difficult subject to talk about, and one we all hope (and assume) won’t happen to our loved ones. The reality is that it happens with alarming frequency. According to a 2014 study, one in every three females and one in every 20 males will experience unwanted sexual contact by the time they turn 18.* Sadly, the assailant is someone the child knows and trusts in the majority of cases. Teaching children about body autonomy is a powerful way to protect them.
While grandparents should be the greatest advocates for our children learning about bodily autonomy, we are instead among the greatest offenders. We swoop in for the hug, insist on the kiss, hold them tight when they try to squirm away. Whether we see them daily or once a year, we crave their affection and expect them to return the physical displays of our love for them. In doing so, we are teaching them that they must yield their bodies to other people’s requests.
We teach them in other ways, too, saying “Give your sister a hug to say you’re sorry” or “It’s okay, he just keeps poking you to get your attention.” In ways big and small, we are repeatedly telling them that they don’t have the ability or privilege to make choices about their own bodies.
Instead, we need to make sure our grandchildren get the message that their bodies are theirs to control, and that they can always decide how others touch it. They need to know that people who love them will always respect that, and that anyone who doesn’t is not a friend. They need to know we won’t ever force them to do something they don’t like or ask them to do something don’t feel comfortable doing. We need to make sure they understand that if anyone expects them to submit to unwanted physical contact, their entire family supports their right to say no.
Once Marilyn’s son explained the reasons behind his seemingly crazy request, she was happy to comply. “It all made sense once he educated me!” And while her granddaughter did not want hugs for the first two days of her visit, by the third day she was running to Marilyn for affection all day long. “It was hard to wait for her to warm up to me, but if it will keep her safe as she grows up, I’m so glad I did.”
*Finkelhor, D., Shattuck, A., Turner, H. A., & Hamby, S. L. (2014). The lifetime prevalence of child sexual abuse and sexual assault assessed in late adolescence. Journal of Adolescent Health, 55(3), 329-333.
More in our “What Grandparents Need to Know” series:
Skin-to-Skin Contact After Birth
What's Baby-led Weaning?
Books with grandmothers that your grandchildren will love
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Is there any doubt that grandmothers are important? Not according to research, and not according to the authors of these eight picture books about grandmothers. We are constantly on the lookout for stories that feature grandmothers, and these are our current favorites.
Each of these books features a grandmother with a special relationship with her grandchild. Which one will you get to celebrate your relationship with your grandchild? (Click any title or photo to shop on Amazon!)
I Really Want to See You, Grandma
by Taro Gomi
Originally published in Japan, this delightful story tells the tale of Yumi and her grandmother’s frustrating attempts to visit one another. Its simple words and expressive pictures will appeal to the youngest grandchildren.
When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree
by Jamie L. B. Deenihan
This was a favorite of the grands, especially the six year-old. The grandmother in this book plays a small but key role in the story. The humor and colorful pictures share more than one important message, all wrapped up in an engaging plot.
Nana in the City
by Lauren Castillo
A Caldecott Honor book, Castillo’s wonderful images fill a book about perspective and the influence a grandparent can have on a child’s experience. Nana’s love for her grandson and his love for her come shining through the simple story.
by Arthur Dorros
The colorful, intricate illustrations take the reader on a magical trip through New York City with Rosalba and her abuela. With lots of Spanish words, a focus on family and references to immigration, this book can be a springboard for meaningful conversations with children.
Last Stop on Market Street
by Matt De La Pena
The relationship between CJ and his nana is an integral part of this award-winning story, and their bus trip across town is long enough to show how important Nana is to molding CJ’s experience of the world. The lyrical text is fun to read out loud to your grands.
The Hello, Goodbye Window
by Norton Juster
Nanna and Poppy's Window is the lens through which we see a delightful relationship between grandparent and grandchild. It stands up to repeated readings--even three in a row! Each time we read it, we have a different conversation inspired by the book.
How to Babysit a Grandma
by Jean Reagan
Perfect for reading with Grandma! Babysitting a grandma requires doing all the things she loves to do with her grandchildren. The silly premise and playful illustrations will make your grandchildren giggle.
A Grandma’s Magic
by Charlotte Offsay
This one is a perfect gift for grandmothers. The story is lovely: the sentiment is sweet without being cloying and the words flow beautifully for reading aloud. The charming illustrations by Asa Gilland depict modern grandmothers of all sorts.
Looking for books about grandfathers? You can see some of our picks here!