Grandchildren and changing family relationships

Family relationships sometimes change when grandchildren arrive.

The arrival of grandchildren might bring you closer to their parents. You might feel pride and joy as you watch your children become good and caring parents.

But sometimes these feelings take a while to grow, particularly if there has been distance or strain in your relationship with your grandchildren’s parents.

Keep in mind that your grandchildren’s parents are learning to be parents. Your support can be a big help as they learn. And it might also help to remember that you’re learning to be a grandparent. Try not to be too hard on yourself if things don’t always go the way you want with your grandchildren’s parents.

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

Fostering family relationships as a grandparent: tips

Here are some ideas for fostering strong family relationships as you and your children learn about being parents and grandparents:

  • Give your grandchildren’s parents time and space to work out what kind of parents they want to be.
  • If you live far away, discuss plans for visiting your grandchildren and times when you can voice-call or video-call.
  • Think about what you’d like your grandchildren to call you – for example, grandma, grandpa, nanna, pop and so on. Your grandchildren’s parents might have some thoughts too, so it’s a good idea to talk with them about it.
  • Use the arrival of grandchildren as a chance to reconnect if your relationship with your grandchildren’s parents has been strained. 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’.

Supporting your grandchildren’s parents: some tips

Most parents appreciate support, whether it’s practical help like picking the children up from child care, or emotional support like listening if they’re having a bad day.

Giving support when it’s needed will probably be good for your relationship with your grandchildren’s parents. And it’s also likely to be good for their relationship with each other and with their children, especially if you can give them a break, help them achieve a work-family balance, or just encourage them as parents.

Here are some ideas for supporting your grandchildren’s parents:

  • Work out what sort of support you can give. It’s important to talk about this with the new parents, so everyone’s expectations are clear.
  • If you can, show that you’re willing to help. For example, you could offer to look after grandchildren every now and then, or even on a regular basis.
  • Be respectful of your children’s parenting style and decisions. They’ll develop their own approach based on their family situation and their children’s temperaments and needs.
  • Wait until you’re asked for advice before giving it. Advice can be great, but too much can be overwhelming and even alienating.
  • If you think your grandchildren’s parents are doing a good job parenting your grandchildren, make sure to let them know!