Tips for Being a Better Grandparent No Matter What

No matter how old your grandchildren are or what your relationship is like, there’s no doubt that being a grandparent is a role quite unlike anything else.

Being a good grandparent means being attentive, compassionate, and respectful of both your grandchildren and their parents. Although it may sound easy in theory, most grandparents know that real life tends to feel a bit more complicated.

Here are some tips to keep in mind.

Ask Your Child What They Need Specifically

Although you may be tempted to come in and do things the way you did as a parent, take a long and intentional pause. Times have changed, generations are different, and you’re most likely to be impactful when you’re able to help in the ways people actually need.

Even though you might love the idea of babysitting your grandchild every afternoon, they may already be interviewing nannies. Similarly, you might have visions of the newborn wearing treasured hand-me-downs that have been passed across from family member to family member. But your child might have already bought clothing and doesn’t have room for extra items.

Instead of trying to guess, it’s often much easier to be direct with a question like, I love spending time with the children, and I want to know how can I best support you and your family. 

Don’t Spoil Carelessly

Although grandparents can and should lavish their grandchildren with love, you still need to respect limits. No matter who the authority figure is, children need structure. Generally speaking, you should never say ‘yes’ to anything that jeopardizes their safety or well-being.

Likewise, if you continuously agree to requests that you know are normally off-limits, you should consider reflecting on your own motives. Do you find the rules unjust or unfair? Do you find it challenging to say no to this wonderful child?

Remember that loving a child doesn’t mean giving them whatever they want at all times. Love means caring enough about someone that you want what’s best for them, and the best often comes wrapped with rules and limits.

As much as possible, aim to respect your child’s parenting choices. If you continuously argue with them or break rules, you’re straddling a fine line, and you risk your own children withdrawing from the relationship or limiting your contact with your grandchild’s life.

Don’t Try to Compete With Other Relatives

Everyone compares and gets jealous from time to time- even the grandparents can get insecure in their roles and wonder if they’re doing enough. In turn, they may become judgmental towards others.

Keep in mind that you stand alone as your own grandparent, and you don’t have to compete with anyone else in this child’s life. Make your role your own! The best grandparents know who they are, and they know what they bring to the family.

Remember that a child can’t be loved enough. Try to embrace other family members in your own life, and spend quality time with your grandchildren in ways that feel meaningful and joyful.

Get to Know Your Grandchildren Authentically

What makes for a fabulous grandparent? More than anything, fabulous grandparents are present with their grandchildren. The child feels special and loved- they know their grandma or grandpa is fully there in the moment with them.

With that, these grandparents tend to be excellent listeners, and they also pay close attention to their grandchild’s needs, desires, and values. So, as you spend time with your grandchild, get to really know who they are. If you know they love movies, consider spending the afternoon watching movies together. If they like music, ask them to play some of their favorite songs for you.

The most important thing is respecting them for who they are. Listen to your grandchildren’s stories. Get to know their unique and distinct personalities!

Work On Your Relationship With Your Adult Child

Grandparent issues almost always stem from having a strained relationship within the parental dynamic. If you have unresolved problems, they don’t just disappear overnight. The birth of the first grandchild sometimes opens this painful Pandora’s box.

The first step is committing to more active listening. If your child senses that you judge or don’t care about their needs, they will either withhold information from you or become defensive and combative. So try to be more open, and be mindful of any tendencies to rush and give unsolicited advice.

From there, it’s important to acknowledge your mistakes and remain open to feedback. Even though your child is now an adult, the modeling isn’t fully over. They watch what you do and how you respond, and if you ever believe you hurt their feelings, you should apologize and own up to it.

If you haven’t yet asked your child how you might improve your relationship, consider doing so. While you don’t technically owe your child anything, it’s helpful to know what expectations they have for you.

Final Thoughts On How to Be a Good Grandparent

Grandparents have an irreplaceable and special role in family dynamics. But there are undoubtedly challenges within the grandparent-grandchild dynamic, and these difficulties may be exacerbated if you have tension with your adult child.

If you’re about to be a new grandparent, you may need support to ensure you’re on the same page with the new parents. You might also benefit from working through any unresolved tension affecting your family history. Therapy can provide you with both guidance and practical support. Contact me today to learn more.

4601 Spicewood Springs Road Building 3, Suite 200
Austin, TX 78759
(512) 988-3363

Got Questions?
Send a Message!

By submitting this form via this web portal, you acknowledge and accept the risks of communicating your health information via this unencrypted email and electronic messaging and wish to continue despite those risks. By clicking "Yes, I want to submit this form" you agree to hold Brighter Vision harmless for unauthorized use, disclosure, or access of your protected health information sent via this electronic means.