“There is no better gig than being a grandfather,” one of my friends told me years ago as my first son and daughter-in-law were expecting their first baby. His words have been proven to me time and time again as I have loved stepping into the role of grandfather. We are now expecting our tenth grandchild in a few months, and I have been reflecting more on the things I have done well and the things I could have done better to become a really “super grandfather” for my beloved grandchildren.
I know that the transition to grandparenthood can be either quite exciting or perhaps difficult. When children come into a family after the parents are married and stable, learning about impending grandchildren can be quite a joyful experience. But when a child is coming unplanned, perhaps to an unmarried teenage daughter, it can be a time of stress and emotional pain. But, in any case, an innocent child is coming into a man’s family, and despite the circumstances, there is a new opportunity to be involved in the life of this new little baby.
Grandfathers can play such an important role in the lives of their grandchildren, from the earliest days of their lives through their growing up years. But some of the choices a grandfather makes can determine how successful he will be in this new and important part of his life. These seven tips can help a man blossom in his role as a grandfather, learn how to best influence these little grandchildren for good and have fun in the process.
Spend Time When Possible
There is no substitute for time in building relationships, and spending time with the grandkids is critical in that relationship as well. If grandchildren are far away, spending time can be on the phone, via web conference or in exchanging letters, texts or emails. If they are close by, then look for opportunities to see and spend time with the grandkids often.
Being too intrusive in the lives of your grandchild’s family can be negative, so you want to be cautious. But make the time to see them regularly and to interact in positive ways. Even if the grandkids tend to test your patience, make time to be with them and to get to know them well.
Respect the Grandchild’s Parents
Meddling parents or in-laws can be the bane of a young person’s existence, and that is never truer than when the kids are new parents. As the parent of a parent, you step into a different role – one of giving advice rather than directing outcomes. So, as a grandfather, you need to respect the grandchild’s parents and honor their wishes. You can certainly offer advice and counsel when you see things going awry, but you can’t change discipline techniques or counteract their parenting philosophy. But you can always show love and make sure that your grandchildren feel close to you.
Prepare your home
If grandchildren are going to spend any time in your home, you may need to take a critical look and babyproof your home. Put delicate things out of reach. Get a portable baby gate for the top of your stairs. Put child locks on cabinets and closet doors. If you can get your home ready to take care of grandkids, you will not spend all of your time telling them “no” and keeping them out of things.
Spoil Them But Carefully
Every grandfather looks forward to the opportunity to spoil his grandchildren and to give them things and time that will help them be happy. But grandfathers need to be a little careful as well. Feeding them ice cream half an hour before dinner is not a good idea. Remember to think about the bigger picture when you are tempted to spoil them. It is also good to remember that kids love quality time spent with them as much or more than they love toys, video games and treats. Think more about making memories than adding to the toy box.
Focus on Simple Fun
Sometimes, grandparents can be complicated as far as their interactions with the grandchildren. Try to keep interactions simple and direct. While a trip to Disneyland may be good occasionally, you don’t have to have major league entertainment all the time.
Reading together, playing with the kids in the yard and just talking about some treats can be the best interactions of all.
Give Age-Appropriate Gifts
Sometimes grandparents are so excited about giving gifts to the grandkids that they forget what they are capable of enjoying. An electronic tablet might be good for a ten-year-old but not for a two-year-old. Think about their maturity level, their motor skills, and their attention span when considering gifts for them. And always remember safety for the smallest ones – parts that are too small can be choking hazards. Most toys have age guidelines printed on the box, and checking these are a good way to make sure that your gift will work and be a good thing for the kids.
Don’t Take Risks
Parents are often a little over-protective of their children, while grandparents have seen kids grow up with all kinds of risky experience and turn out just fine. But grandkids are the not the ones with whom grandfathers should take risks. Always buckle them up in the car in a safe car seat. If you take them on a motorbike, make sure they are wearing a helmet. Don’t leave them out of sight anytime you are in charge. Just make sure that you are keeping the importance of their safety and health at the top of mind in your interactions.
Truly, as my friend suggested, grandfathering is a great gig. It can be a lot of fun and very rewarding if you follow just a few simple rules, take appropriate precautions, and make sure that you are having meaningful and fun interactions with the grandkids.