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 grandchildren, 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 grandchildren without being responsible for them in the same way their parents are.

Your role as a grandparent

You can decide on your 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 play a role in looking after their grandchildren.

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, talk with the parents-to-be. Listen to their ideas about how you might be able to help.
  • Share what you think you can and can’t do to support them as new parents.
  • 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 three and six years

Your relationship with your grandchild or 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 grandchildren 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.

This is true for all families but especially for children in high-risk families – for example, children with disabilities and children in families after a separation.

Tips for building relationships with your grandchildren

  • Enjoy your time together – and remember that while you’re playing and having fun with your grandchildren, 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 the precious ornaments. This can help you relax more and enjoy your time with your grandchildren. You know from being a parent how quickly the childhood years pass.

If you find yourself grandparenting during a separation or divorce, your support can make a big difference to your grandchildren and their parents.

Grandparents and changing family relationships

New grandchildren often make family relationships stronger and closer.

Things aren’t always easy, though. Some grandparents have problems with their grandchildren’s parents. Sometimes these problems even mean that grandparents don’t see their grandchildren.

Tips for nurturing good family relationships

  • Let your grandchildren’s parents know when you think they’re doing a good job as parents – most people like praise!
  • If you’re concerned about your grandchildren, keep in mind that your grandchildren’s parents might parent differently from the way you parented. So try to avoid criticism.
  • Discuss concerns about your grandchildren with your partner or a friend before talking to your grandchildren’s parents. This can help you get some perspective.

If your grandchild’s parents can’t care for him, you might become a grandparent carer. This situation has its challenges, but it has many bonuses too.

Looking after yourself as a grandparent

Most grandparents are still healthy and active when their grandchildren are young, but some have health problems. And as well as being a grandparent, you might have other commitments – for example, work or clubs you belong to.

Looking after yourself with regular exercise, rest and a healthy diet will help you keep up with grandchildren – and just enjoy your life.

Tips for looking after yourself as a grandparent

  • Be positive about supporting your children as a new parents, but also be clear about your health, energy levels and other commitments. No-one benefits if you run yourself into the ground.
  • As you get older, or if you have health problems, adapt your time with the grandchildren to quieter activities. 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.

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.
– Grandmother