Grandchildren and changing family relationships
Family relationships sometimes change when grandchildren arrive.
The arrival of a grandchild might bring you closer to their parents. You might feel pride and joy as you watch your grandchild’s parents 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 grandchild’s parents.
Keep in mind that your grandchild’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 grandchild’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 3
Fostering family relationships as a grandparent: tips
Here are some ideas for fostering strong family relationships as you and your grandchild’s parents learn about being grandparents and parents:
- Give your grandchild’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 grandchild and times when you can call or video chat.
- 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.
- Use the arrival of a grandchild as a chance to reconnect if your relationship with your grandchild’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’.
- 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, you could discuss your concerns with your partner or a friend before talking to your grandchild’s parents. This can help you get some perspective.
Supporting your grandchild’s parents: some tips
Most parents appreciate support, whether it’s practical help like picking their child 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 grandchild’s parents. And it’s also likely to be good for their relationship with each other and with their child, 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 grandchild’s parents:
- Work out what sort of support you can give. Talk about this with the new parents, ideally before the birth of your grandchild. That way everyone’s expectations will be clear.
- If you can, show that you’re willing to help. For example, you could offer to look after your grandchild every now and then, or even on a regular basis.
- Be respectful of your grandchild’s parents’ parenting style and decisions. They’ll develop their own approach based on their family situation and their child’s temperament and needs.
- Wait until you’re asked for advice before giving it. Your expertise is likely to be one source of support among many, and too much advice can be overwhelming.