ISSUE: Becoming a grandparent for the first time can be an exciting and joyous experience. However, learning how to navigate this new role and the changes it brings can also present some challenges. There are some tips for new grandparents to help make this transition successful.
Q: Is grand parenting today different than it was one or two generations ago?
A: Yes, it is. Today's grandparents are generally healthier, busier, and are more likely to still be working when their first grandchild arrives. It is also more likely that grandparents will live some distance from their grandchildren and will have to establish a long-distance relationship with them. All of these changes may mean that we don't have a good grand parenting "role model," because the way our parents or grandparents filled this role may not work for us.
Q: What are some suggestions for first-time grandparents as they prepare for this new chapter in their life?
1. Educate yourself on new trends: A lot has changed in the last 20-30 years on the subjects of pregnancy and childbirth, child-rearing practices, toys and safety equipment, etc. Check your local library, bookstore or the Internet for resources that can help you catch up on these new trends. You may also want to check with your local hospital to see if they offer classes for grandparents-to-be.
2. Discuss expectations and boundaries with the parents: Particularly when grandparents live close to the grandchildren, there may be unspoken assumptions on the part of the parents or the grandparents regarding things like the grandparents providing child care, babysitting, frequency of visits, etc. Unspoken assumptions often lead to misunderstandings and conflict. Talk about these issues openly and up front, and don't be afraid to say "no" if the parents' requests for help are more than you can or are willing to do. By the same token, don't be hurt and respect their wishes if they establish some boundaries on your access to the grandchildren.
3. Be supportive but non-judgmental: It is inevitable that, as a grandparent, you will occasionally disagree with your child's parenting techniques. As difficult as it may be to bite your tongue, only share your experience and advice when asked for it.
4. Spoil them with love but not goodies: Most grandparents think it is not only their right but their duty to spoil their grandchildren. That's OK if it means giving them your unconditional love and as much of your time and attention as possible. But you want to avoid spoiling them if that means disregarding their parents' rules, overindulging them with gifts or giving in to their every demand. That will only make the parents' job more difficult.
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