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It’s normal for grandparents to look out for their grandchild, but you might need to work out what to worry about – and how to raise real concerns with your grandchild’s parents.
Grandfather reading to grandson iStockphoto.com/Birgitte Magnus
 

Do you need to worry?

Being a grandparent has its joys, but it’s also pretty normal to worry about your grandkids. Your grandchild is being raised in a different world from the one you were raised in and the one you raised your children in. It can be hard to keep up!

Also, everyone parents in different ways. You might not always agree with the decisions that your grandchild’s parents make about behaviour, discipline, independence, media, friendships and so on. But not agreeing doesn’t make these decisions the wrong ones.

In fact, if your grandchild’s parents are making well-informed decisions that are right for their family, you probably have no need to worry at all.

But if you’re still concerned, you could try to work out whether it’s something you really need to worry about. One way to do this is to discuss your concerns with your partner, or a friend who is also a grandparent. Or you could ask other grandparents in our grandparents online forum. Other points of view can help you decide whether you need to talk about the issue with your grandchild’s parents.

You could also read our article on being a parent to get a sense of some of the challenges that parents face today, and the way they think about their parenting decisions. It might also be worth thinking back to when you were a young parent – what did you worry about? And how did you make decisions about raising your children?

If you need help or want to get help for your grandchild or his parents, you could get in touch with support services.

There are no disagreements because they’re not my children. I don’t think it helps parents to be undermined. I might sometimes think, ‘Oh gosh, they should have done that differently’. But I don’t say anything. They’re intelligent people and they’ll work it out.
– Catherine, grandmother of two granddaughters aged three and seven years.

Tips for communicating concerns

If there’s an issue you feel you must raise with your grandchild’s parents, preparation, timing and respect will probably help the conversation along.

Preparation
Rehearsing what you want to say can help you find a good way to say it. For example, ‘I've noticed that Joe doesn’t seem to hear me when I’m behind him. Have you noticed that too?’

Sometimes it helps to practise with your partner or a friend.

Timing
If you think it’s likely to be a tricky conversation, it can help to choose a calm and private time for both you and your grandchild’s parent. For example, if they’re busy with work and family commitments during the week, a weekend time might be better.

Respect
Your grandchild’s parents are almost certainly doing the best they can for their child. A tricky conversation will probably go better if you can show you respect their parenting and experience.

If your concern is about managing your grandchild’s behaviour, it can help to tell your child what happened and then ask for advice. For example, ‘Zoe kept taking her shoes off at the playground and got upset when I asked her to put them back on. What do you find works to get her to keep them on?’

Everyone loves praise. Balancing your concerns with praise, both for your grandchild and his parents, can help you all focus on the positives. For example, ‘Giorgio has learned that game very quickly. You’ve got a real knack for explaining things to him’.

Understanding boundaries is a part of respect too. You can express a concern, but it’s the responsibility of your grandchild’s parents to decide what to do about it.

More communication tips
If you have a good relationship with your grandchild’s parents, you could try asking open-ended questions to get a sense of how they see the situation you’re worried about. For example, ‘Have other parents in your mother’s group had this problem?’ or ‘Did your maternal child health nurse mention anything at the last appointment?’

Suggesting community resources like your grandchild’s GP, child care centre, preschool or school can also be helpful.

If you think your grandchild is at risk of abuse or being neglected, talk with your grandchild’s parents about your concerns. If you think there are serious problems of violence or neglect in your grandchild’s home and you need advice, you can get help and information by ringing a parenting hotline.
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  • Last Updated 13-08-2012
  • Last Reviewed 27-07-2012
  • Acknowledgements Adapted from Ochiltree, G. (2006). Grandparents, grandchildren and the generation in between. Camberwell, Vic.: ACER Press.
  • Ochiltree, G. (2006). Grandparents, grandchildren and the generation in between. Camberwell, Vic.: ACER Press.