Sharing stories is one of the most important things grandparents can do. But should you share your stories of being a new parent?
Do you remember when you were expecting your first baby? I sure do. I was the first of my friends to get married, and the first to have children. Thanks to having a gaggle of younger siblings, I knew a lot about how to take care of babies, but I didn’t know much about pregnancy and birth.
Here’s what was available to me as I tried to educate myself for the coming months: I went to the local book store and bought What to Expect When You’re Expecting. I took the hospital’s Lamaze classes. I talked to the only woman I knew in town who had given birth, my hairdresser. (She gave me the most descriptive warnings about what to expect!)
I wish I’d had a circle of wise, experienced mothers to share their experiences with me. Parents-to-be today can find such support in online groups and blogs, as well as community organizations. There is a wealth of information and experience out there now, just a quick Google search away.
Why you should share your stories
So with all the advice and expertise today’s parents have available to them, why should grandparents-to-be share their own experiences with their daughters and daughters-in-law? Because it can help your adult children understand that you recognize them as adults, and that you want to forge a new relationship with them as they become parents.
Sharing your own stories of birth and the early days of parenting can help parents-to-be know you have been through the same things they are going through. It can help them understand where you are coming from when you help them after the baby is born. It can be an opening to valuable conversations about the choices they are making, and concerns they may have. These conversations can build connection and trust with new parents.
Sharing stories about how you fed your newborn can also be helpful. What do you wish you had known? Remember that you will have biases based on the choices you made and the experience you had, and that those biases may influence what you want to share. To help combat that, encourage parents-to-be to take a prenatal feeding class like those offered by Like a Sister Support. (You can even gift one to them!)
What not to share
When you share stories about birth experiences with a first-time mom, you must always consider your words carefully. This isn’t the time for dramatic narratives about pain, or stories about things that went wrong. While you don’t need to sugar-coat your own experiences, it’s important to focus on information that will be helpful. Did you use a doctor or midwife? Where did you give birth and what did you like or dislike about it? What options did you have during labor and which ones were useful to you? Did you try different methods of feeding?
Never share without first asking the parents-to-be if they are interested in hearing your stories. The answer may be no! If you are respectful of their decisions, they may change their mind.
Instead, ask them questions about what they plan and where they are getting their information. By showing that you are eager to listen to them, you’ll plant the seeds for healthy communication and boundaries.
(Our digital guide, Partnering with Parents, includes a scripted dialog to help you navigate those boundaries and create relationship based on trust and support. You can get it as part of New Grandparent Essentials, or as a stand-alone guide here.)
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