Learning the limits of a grandparent's role is a process that should begin before a grandchild is born. As the parents prepare for the birth, grandparents should be sharing the happy news and practicing observing boundaries. These eight areas can be especially tricky to navigate.
01 of 08
Maternity clothes used to be designed to hide the bulge, but today's mothers-to-be proudly display their baby bumps. That's just one way that pregnancy and childbirth practices have changed. Today many mothers work up until the day of delivery, and they often maintain an exercise regime. On the other hand, some of today's mothers-to-be take precautions that we were never informed about, such as avoiding undercooked meats and unpasteurized products. Grandparents have to trust that... their children are getting good professional advice and using their own sound judgment.
Want to get up to speed? Consider taking a grandparenting class.
02 of 08
The Naming Process
Choosing baby names is one of the treasured and yet stressful rites on the way to parenthood. Grandparents should not make it more stressful by putting in their two cents without being asked. They should not suggest names or ask that a baby be named after someone in the family. If asked to comment on specific names, they may carefully modulate their approval, expressing more approval for some names than for others, but they should never admit to hating a particular name. If you do, one of two... things will happen. Either the parents will cross the name off the list and resent you for making their job harder, or they will choose it anyway and always remember that you didn't like it.
03 of 08
The Birthing Process
Today many expectant parents have a birth plan, or at least very specific ideas about how they want their labor and delivery to proceed. They will probably be happy to tell you about it. They may not be happy to hear your opinion of it. Nod a lot. And although many grandparents long to be in the delivery room, birthing is strictly an invitation-only affair. The expectant parents may opt for assistance from a doula, or the couple may want the birth to be private, shared only with the birthing... team. Sometimes one grandmother is invited to the birth, and the other one is not. Often the mother-to-be's mother is invited and the mother-in-law is excluded. That's not unreasonable. Mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationships are often complicated, and emotional complications are not needed during this already intense time.
Learn more: Bonding With a New Grandchild.
04 of 08
Once your grandchild is born, you don't want that precious bundle to be hungry, but you can bet that the parents already have a feeding plan in place. They have already decided whether to go with bottle or breast. If breast-feeding, they have already decided to pump or not to pump. All you need to do is be supportive and follow their directions exactly if you are tasked with feeding the baby. As your grandchild grows, continue to follow their dietary directives. Emphasize healthy foods,... including fruits and vegetables, and be respectful of allergy issues. Do not introduce a child to sweets if the parents want their child to grow up treat-free.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
Dressing the Grandchild
Some grandparents, especially grandmothers, get very excited about buying clothes for their grandchildren. Unless they are observant and perceptive, however, many of the clothes they buy may end up in the back of a drawer or in a donation bin. Grandparents should ask the parents what kinds of clothes they would like for the baby and observe what type of clothes the parents are buying. Some parents want super comfortable clothes for baby. Some choose organic. Some want frilly for girls and... masculine for boys, and some want clothing that is not gender-specific. As your grandchildren grow, they will also develop their own tastes, but the rules remain the same: Observe how your grandchild is dressed and ask about preferences. And always include a gift receipt.
Learn more about gift-giving pitfalls.
06 of 08
Haircuts and Hair Styles
Like clothing, hair has a long history of engendering conflict between parents and children. Although some parents learn to let go of hair issues when their children become adults, the birth of a grandchild allows the issue to resurface. Of course, newborns usually don't have enough hair to style, but the birth of a granddaughter may bring up the issue of baby headbands and hairbows. As grandchildren grow, their hairstyles, whether chosen by their parents or by the grandchildren themselves,... may make the grandparents cringe. The best course of action is to keep the mouth firmly shut and keep repeating, "It's only hair. It's only hair. . . ."
More about avoiding conflicts: What Not to Say to the Parents of Babies and Toddlers.
07 of 08
Of all tricky issues, discipline is perhaps the trickiest. Although we hear a lot about grandparents who spoil their grandchildren, sometimes instead the grandparents believe that their grandchildren suffer from a lack of discipline. No matter which way the issue runs in your family, the rules are the same. The parents' approach to discipline is the one that matters, and grandparents should follow the parents' guidelines as closely as possible, even when the parents aren't on the... premises, as long as the discipline is something they feel comfortable with. Although a few families may have serious differences about discipline, in most cases open and tactful communication will resolve any conflicts.
08 of 08
Parents have many options today when it comes to schooling their children. They may choose public, private or home schooling, and each of those options includes other options. If the parents opt for public school, for example, they may choose from a neighborhood school, a magnet school or a charter school. Grandparents who are asked to contribute in some significant way have the right to express an opinion. If, for example, the grandparents are asked to contribute to the cost of a private school... or to provide transportation to a particular school, they are entitled to have an opinion and to accept or decline the responsibility. Otherwise, their job is to show up for school programs, although homework help may be appreciated from time to time.
Learn more: How to Help Grandchildren Succeed in School.