Grandparents: do you need to worry about your grandchildren?
Being a grandparent has its joys, but you might also sometimes worry about your grandchild.
You probably have no need to worry if your grandchild’s parents are making well-informed decisions that are right for their family. The decisions they make about behaviour, discipline, independence, media, friendships and so on might be different from the decisions you’d make. But this doesn’t mean these decisions are wrong.
It can help to remember that your grandchild is being raised in a different world from the one you were raised in. And their parents are probably raising them differently from the way you raised your children. Our articles and videos on parenting can give you a sense of how parents today approach decisions about raising their children.
If you take into account these differences and you’re still worried, it might help to talk about your concerns with your partner or a friend who’s also a grandparent. Other points of view can help you decide whether you need to talk about the issue with your grandchild’s parents.
If you need help or want to get help for your grandchild or their 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 children aged 3 and 7 years
When you’re worried: tips for talking with your grandchild’s parents
If there’s an issue you feel you must raise with your grandchild’s parents, there are a few things that can help the conversation go well – preparation, timing, respect and perspective.
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 what you want to say with your partner or a friend.
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 parents. For example, if they’re busy with work and family commitments during the week, a weekend time might be better.
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 a 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 for your grandchild and their 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.
If you have a good relationship with your grandchild’s parents, you could try asking general 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 child and family health nurse mention anything at the last appointment?’
If you think your grandchild is at risk of abuse or neglect, 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.