How to be a Good Grandparent

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Suggestions from adult children to their parents on how to be a good grandparent.

How to be a Good Grandparent is very subjective, but I polled a bunch of people to find out what it is that THEY want from their kids grandparents. And I’ve got the responses right here to share with you.

Tips for How to be a Good Grandparent

I’m so excited to start this new parenting question of the week series on my site. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you saw that last week I asked questions about grandparents. This weeks post will focus on the replies I got from others on how to be a good grandparent.  Over on Instagram I asked for topics that you’d like to see covered and my dad wanted tips on how to be a good grandparent.  So, I thought I’d keep it fairly light for the first parenting question with this topic.

It’s now my goal each Friday to discuss a new topic.  A question of the week!  And I’ll need YOUR help responding to each of the topics. This will be FUN!

I’ll admit, reading through these anonymous responses, I got some stings in my eyes. I think this is a great opportunity for anyone to read through, and maybe share this post with the grandparent in their life.  Hopefully, those grandparents can read what OTHERS have said, and aim to just pick one thing to do to improve relationships with their grandchildren AND their adult children.

With this topic, I asked several questions and I’ll consolidate a bit here. RECOGNIZE that just because one person feels one way, another may not, this is a great opportunity for grandparents to ask their adult children, how do YOU feel? Do you agree or disagree with “such and such” sentiment.

How to be a good grandparent

What are your expectations for your kids grandparents?

Out of all the responses that I got, there was a resounding JUST LOVE MY KIDS! Joyfully love them unconditionally. Show interest in them individually.
Some ideas shared to better show love and how to be a good grandparent are as follows:
  • Remember their birthdays
  • Try to visit for special events/support their interests
  • PLAY with them
  • Be relevant–find out what the kids are up to these days
  • spoil them…just a little
  • someone my kids can confide in
  • enjoy visiting and not feel like they have to
  • just be supportive
  • show interest, besides just a birthday card
  • introduce them to something you love: cooking, art
  • Be tolerant of noise/kids craziness
  • Not judge my kids
  • Be excited about the things my kids are interested in, ask questions

I loved this response from a contributor to the conversation, “I have magical dreams of grandma camp and fishing with grandpa.” I think seeking opportunities to have special time with the kids, aside from just visiting. But man…it can be hard, right?

Grandparents: To discipline or not to discipline?

Some said, don’t be so hands off with helping to discipline, while others wished they would leave the discipline up to the parents. My thoughts are: ASK YOUR ADULT CHILD, “Would you like me to step in and help discipline, or would you prefer I don’t?”
My personal thoughts are…If I’m there, I’d like to take care of it, don’t step on my toes.  But from what I understand, not all parents feel that way. If I’m not there…you are in charge and I hope you would discipline as you see fit.
One response said, “set and follow boundaries, follow parents lead on discipline/parenting fronts.” I could say a resounding HALLELUJAH to this one! I’m grateful my parents have done this fairly well, but I think it’s very challenging to not step in and say, “well I did it this way, and you turned out ok.” Just don’t ever say that, it’s speaking down to what your child has chosen and established as the pattern they would like. You don’t need to be offended by it.  Be respectful of whatever it is that your child/child in law has set for the rules of their home and follow in step.
Another response, “I love when they offer to take over our routine when visiting – bath time, bed time snuggles, wiping faces and hands after meals, etc. But at the end of the day, when I’m around, I like for me to still be the “boss.”
How to be good grandparent

How to connect to your grandchildren when you live far away?

  • send a card for no reason personally addressed to a child (travel postcards are fun!)
  • Facetime and listen to kids stories
  • Call/facetime after special events
  • call just for a child, not as an after thought at then end of parent chat time
  • for older kids: comment on their social media posts
  • making family reunions a priority
  • send a holiday package
  • Use the Marco Polo app. You see them and communicate around busy schedules
  • Text/email the big kids asking about events.

I loved one responders suggestion to email a story about your life or your child (grandchild’s parent) that you remembered that may relate to the child’s age or circumstance in their life at that time.  They said, “My kids love learning about when my parents were younger or when I was younger.”

Another wrote, “Make an effort! With todays technology their are many ways to stay in touch with kids (texting, snapchat, skype, facetime, etc). Don’t use the excuse that the technology of today is beyond your capabilities – make an effort.”
How to be a good grandparent

Grandparents giving advice to adult children

If you want to know how to be a good grandparent, start with being a loving parent to your adult child. Often times, it seems that adult children would prefer to not have the unsolicited advice. I can imagine that would be HARD as the grandparent who have been around the block and seen a few things! Unfortunately, even good meaning advice can come off as critical, and so it can be very sensitive. The approach is everything. If it’s done lovingly and not condescending, it will be a lot better received, and some parents really don’t seem to mind. It’s all about delivery.

Tips on giving advice to your adult children

I wanted to share a few direct quotes from some of the responses.  Hopefully, seeing the exact wording from adult children might be helpful for grandparents:

  • “I don’t want to be reprimanded or made to feel like a child. I am an adult – please treat me like one.”
  • Care to ask about the children as individuals for more than criticism or telling me what I should do to handle a problem.” 
  • “I don’t have problems with them giving advice as long as they don’t start out by attacking something I’m doing.”
  • “I know I receive the criticism better from my own parents than from my in laws.”
  • “State the idea in a very nonjudgmental way like:  So, have you thought about this?  or What do you think about this?… Advice is always best taken when it is asked for. Great ideas are always welcome, telling me what I am doing wrong, not so”
  • “Please offer advice away from the moment and away from the kids.”
  • Ask, instead of assume. Begin with, “I was wondering, concerned about, not sure if you’ve thought of, did you know, I read/what do you think of this?…”
  • “Never make me feel like I am a bad parent.”
  • “Share an example of what worked with me when I was a kid.”
  • “Don’t offer up any advice unless specifically asked for it! I always like it when the grandparents just smile and nod.”
  • “Let me need you & ask for your advice. Let me make & learn from my choices.”
  • “Keep the negativity to yourself.”

Remember grandparents are only trying to be helpful

I think the adults/grown children can also stop to realize grandparents are only trying to be helpful. Though the delivery might not be as we prefer, it shows a lot of caring to listen, even if it feels like an attack.  I loved this response about the parent/child relationship with an adult child. “If you are proud of me, please tell me. I may be an adult, but it is still REALLY important to me.”
Another said, “I still need encouragement from my parents- be my cheerleader and tell me I am going a good job as a parent. Their stamp of approval, vote of confidence in me and my parenting (and life) means a lot. Point out great things about my kids that I may not notice.”
parenting adult children - How to be a good grandparent

Conversations with grandparents

These are a few topics that were specifically mentioned as great conversation starters for how to be a good grandparent to their grandchildren:
  • wisdom
  • stories from their past
  • learning from mistakes
  • the word of God
  • sharing your talents

 Spread the grandparent love equally

I didn’t live near my grandparents growing up and either have my children, so it wasn’t hard to feel just fine in the equality department.  But I received a few responses on the issue and thought it was important to touch on the topic of showing love equally amongst grandchildren.  I can imagine that would be very hard! My parents have 14 grandchildren, all so different, so it can be tricky to give adequate attention when everyone is together.
I think it’s important to remember that, although a grandparent may not INTEND to play favorites, some kids gravitate and connect to them more than others.  But as the adult, it’s important for grandparent to try NOT to play favorites. One responder felt hurt that they could clearly tell that their parents favored a siblings kids over her own.  And that showed in the way of gifts, hugs, and conversation. I can see how that would be hurtful.  Grandparents, sim to not play favorites. Make each grandchild feel special and cherished and love your grandchildren unconditionally.
Another said, “I wish my parents cared a little more. My father passed away before I had children and my mother remarried and became absorbed in that man’s life. They occasionally visited but made no real effort to develop relationships with my kids. My husbands parents are the same. I have 3 kids that are all great, fantastic people that most people would be so excited and proud to have as grandkids! Its most unfortunate. Entirely the grandparents loss (and i don’t even think they realize it? Which is doubly sad.). They have definitely shown me clearly what not to do when my kids have kids of their own. I grieve that my children never had the grandparent relationships they should have had though. They see friends with involved, awesome grandparents and i know they realize now that their older what they didn’t have that.”
 grandparents and grandkids

A word to the parents about your your kids grandparents:

Be patient. Just as you are figuring out the parenting thing, they are figuring out the grand-parenting thing. Also, figuring out the parenting an adult child thing. Be open and communicate your thoughts, don’t just begrudgingly deal with it. Maybe it’s best in a letter or going out to dinner and sharing some of your thoughts about what you read above.
If you’d like to see your parents more involved with your kids life, let them know. Send them a text and say, “Tommy has a track meet today, maybe you can ask him about it?” If they aren’t close by, they can’t be expected to just know all the details, so throw them a bone, so to speak. Help them be involved.
I really am grateful to hear all of the thoughts from everyone that responded to the parenting question of the week on how to be a good grandparent. I think this is a great resource, and one that I hope will be shared to the grandparents you know. Maybe say, “Hey, I read this great article that I’d like to discuss with you…what do you think?”

How to keep grandparent in the loop:

Send them cards.
Send them pictures.
Invite them to events.
Initiate phone calls.
Ask about their life, too.
Keep them in the loop.
To see the question of the week that I’ll cover next week, make sure you are subscribed to my weekly newsletter.  And please weigh in on the topics that appeal to you!
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