Changing family relationships

Where has the time gone? Your babies are grown up. They’re adults now, with grown-up relationships of their own. And now you’ve got grandchildren. Your family has changed.

When your grandchild arrives you might feel closer to your grandchild’s parents. You might also feel pride and joy as you watch them become good and caring parents. But sometimes these feelings take a while to grow.

After all, your grandchild’s parents are learning to be parents and you’re learning to be a grandparent.

It’s pretty normal to have mixed feelings about this new phase in your life. But it might help to know you can play a really important role in supporting your new extended family.

We gradually got closer and closer as time went on. I think my daughter appreciated me more once she had Michael. I think she appreciated more the role of a mother.
– Mary, grandmother of three

Supporting and communicating with your grandchild’s parents: some tips

  • If you’re able to, you can show your enthusiasm and willingness to help – for example, you could offer to look after your grandchild every now and then.
  • Think about what you’d like your grandchild to call you – for example, grandma, grandpa, nanna, pop and so on. Your grandchild’s parents might have some thoughts too, so it’s a good idea to talk with them about it.
  • Most parents appreciate some help, whether it’s practical – like picking the kids up from child care – or emotional – just listening if they’re having a bad day. You could think about what you can manage and be available when you can.
  • If you live far away, discuss plans for visiting your grandchildren and times when you can keep in touch by calling or using digital technology – for example, Skype.
  • It takes time and a bit of trial and error to learn to be a parent. Help and advice can be great, but your grandchild’s parents need time and space to learn to be parents their way. You could talk with them about how you’re learning to be a grandparent too.
  • If you think your grandchild’s parents are doing a good job parenting your grandchild, make sure to let them know!
  • If you’re concerned about your grandchild, keep in mind that your grandchild’s parents might parent differently from the way you parented, so you might be noticing a difference in parenting style. Or it might just be your grandchild’s temperament.
  • A good relationship with your children’s partners from the start will help as you all move into this new phase. You can make them feel part of your family by showing an interest in their lives. You can then build on this relationship when grandchildren arrive.
  • If your relationship with your grandchild’s parents hasn’t been so good lately, you might be able to use the arrival of grandchildren as a chance to reconnect. For example, ‘I know we haven’t had much contact recently, but I’m very excited about your baby and would love to be involved’.