The image of a grandparent and their role in families has changed over the last 30 years. The role of grandparents with their grandchildren can vary in each family situation. There are no guidelines to being a grandparent. Each grandparent has to walk the fine line between providing support and been seen to be interfering, between wanting their children to parent the way they did or letting them work it out for themselves, in their own way.
Some grandparents live with their family and care for their grandchildren while the parents work. These grandparents are significantly involved in the lives of their grandchildren, sometimes taking a lead in parenting their grandchildren. Whilst not living with their grandchildren, other grandparents are also integral to the care of their grandchildren, for example, by taking them to and from school and caring for children after school and in school holidays.
In some families, grandparents are still in employment and may not be able, or want, to take such a major role in the lives of their grandchildren. These grandparents may be more involved in a “babysitting” role, or to spend some time with the grandchildren when and where it suits the grandparents and the family.
Others may not see their grandchildren very often, or have no contact at all. This could be due to a range of reasons including living a long way from their families or maybe as a result of family conflict. This may be a source of distress for grandparents who may feel they are missing out on being part of their grandchildren’s lives.
Increasingly today, grandparents may also be full time parents to their grandchildren in their own homes are a result of the child’s parents being unable or unwilling to care for them.
Whatever the circumstances grandparents are important people in the lives of their grandchildren. For grandchildren, their grandparents offer a “home away from home”, security, support and unconditional love.
- Grandparents often have time to spend with their grandchildren that their busy parents do not. Try to spend time in a leisurely fashion with your grandchildren, at the playground, going for long walks and teaching grandchildren about their world.
- Grandparents are important supports for grandchildren. Make time to listen to your grandchildren. You can help your grandchildren work through troubles or worries they may have.
- Grandparents can sometimes offer an alternate view in disputes between parents and children and thus can often be helpful in resolving issues. Try not to take sides, but rather help your grandchildren and their parents to better understand each other’s perspective.
- Grandchildren can share their world with their grandparents. Grandchildren can teach you about new technology, while you can share how the world used to work before the new technologies that your grandchildren take for granted.
- Celebrate your grandchildren’s successes. Encourage them to keep trying new things. Show them the importance of hope and optimism. Grandparents can empower their grandchildren to enjoy life by sharing life through their eyes.