Becoming a grandparent
When you become a grandparent, it can change your life in many wonderful ways.
When asked for the best thing about having a grandchild, grandparents talk about the joys of loving and being loved, watching children grow, and seeing themselves live on through their grandchildren.
One of the great things about becoming a grandparent is loving and caring for your grandchild without being responsible for them in the same way their parents are.
Your role as a grandparent
You can decide on your role as grandparent.
For example, when a grandchild arrives, many people look forward to a new and important role in supporting their grandchild’s parents. This can range from practical support like cooking meals to emotional support like listening to worries.
Some grandparents are also keen to look after their grandchildren when their adult children are working, studying or doing other activities.
But if you want to take things more slowly to start with, that’s OK. The key thing is to be clear, honest and open about the support you can offer.
Tips for working out your role as a grandparent
- Before your grandchild is born, share what you think you can and can’t do to support the new parents. It’s easier to offer less support to start with and increase as your new role and relationships develop.
- Consider your current or future family commitments – for example, your other children who have or are planning to have children.
- Talk with the parents-to-be. Listen to their ideas about how you might be able to help.
- Talk to friends who are grandparents about their experiences settling into their new role.
- Be aware that things might change once a new grandchild arrives. The new parents might need more help, or they might need more time alone with their baby to find their feet as parents.
I have a lovely daughter-in-law. I made a decision not to interfere in her mothering and the choices that she made. My mother and my mother-in-law were very good in that way, and I learned from them. Give advice if you’re asked for it, but don’t go on about it.
– Catherine, grandmother of children aged 3 and 6 years
Your relationship with grandchildren
Many people are amazed and delighted at the joy, fun and love that becoming grandparents brings to their lives. The special bonds that can develop between you and your grandchild can lead to a really beautiful and rewarding relationship.
The relationship between grandparents and grandchildren can have a very positive influence on children’s development too. Children who have warm relationships with their grandparents can bounce back better during life’s ups and downs.
These ideas can help you build your relationship with your grandchild:
- Enjoy your time together – and remember that while you’re playing and having fun with your grandchild, you’re also helping their development and nurturing your relationship.
- If you have several grandchildren, treat them all as individuals. This helps each one feel special to you.
- Let your household standards slip a bit and put away anything breakable. This can help you relax and enjoy your time with your grandchild.
Building relationships when you live far away from grandchildren
If you live too far away to see your grandchild regularly, here are some ideas for building a strong relationship:
- Maintain regular contact. You can use video chat, voice calls or messaging, or try different social media platforms to see what works best for everyone.
- Try doing activities as well as talking. For example, you could play games together while you chat or read to your grandchild on a video chat. You could also try doing online activities together, like playing word games or doing virtual museum or gallery visits.
- Send activities for your grandchild to do and report back to you about – for example, treasure hunts, noticing nature walks or listening walks.
- When you visit your grandchild, lay the foundations for long-distance connections and activities. For example, set up some games that you can continue online.
If you find yourself grandparenting during a separation or divorce, your support can make a big difference to your grandchild and their parents.
Grandparents and changing family relationships
New grandchildren often make family relationships stronger and closer.
But sometimes there are problems, distance or strain in the relationships between grandparents and their grandchild’s parents. Try not to be too hard on yourself if things don’t always go the way you want with your grandchild’s parents.
Tips for nurturing good family relationships
- Let your grandchild’s parents know when you think they’re doing a good job as parents – most people like praise!
- If you’re concerned about your grandchild, keep in mind that your grandchild’s parents might parent differently from the way you parented. So try to avoid criticising.
- Discuss concerns about your grandchild with your partner or a friend before talking to your grandchild’s parents. This can help you get some perspective.
If your grandchild’s parents can’t look after your grandchild, you might become a grandparent carer. This situation has its challenges, but it has many bonuses too.
Looking after yourself as a grandparent
Being involved in your grandchild’s life can be good for you physically and mentally. But if you overdo it, it can leave you tired. Caring for very young children, in particular, can be very physical.
Looking after yourself by staying physically active, eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep will help you keep up with your grandchild – and just enjoy your life.
Tips for looking after yourself as a grandparent
- Be clear with your grandchild’s parents about your health, energy levels and other commitments. No-one benefits if you get overtired.
- As you get older or if you have health problems, do quieter activities with your grandchild. Reading and playing board games could be good options.
- If you have a partner, talk together about how you can share the role of supporting your children and grandchildren. A team approach to grandparenting is likely to mean less stress and more satisfaction for both of you.
- Try to have regular check-ups with your doctor, and deal with any health problems as they come up.
- Try walking with babies or toddlers in a pram or stroller or walking older children to the park to play with their friends. Walking is a healthy way to stay active and can also be good for stress.
The only downside to being a grandma is my body! I get tired before my little grandson does and I’m not always able to keep up with him.