Tuesday, July 29, 2014

12 Tips For Being The Best Grandparents

My dad, my stepmom and Xavier when he was first born.
      I know I am not a grandparent but Xavier had three sets of grandparents. Sadly, he is down to two right now. So we have had some experience with grandparents. Also, I have been taking polls and talking to other parents to find out the best relationship a grandparent can have with their grandchildren.
         It may sound easy, you are a grandparent you get to have fun with the child and send them back home to mom and dad, but if you want to be able to continually see them a lot and not have spats or fights along the way here are some helpful tips directly from parents to grandparents.
          I hope that by writing this it improves any strained relationships that may be going on right now. Also, please note that these rules are for parents and grandparents with an average to good relationship for the most part. Perhaps things only started getting rocky when the new baby was born, or perhaps the babysitting is not going as well as expected. Try out some of these and see what you think. Also, if anyone has any other tips feel free to leave them in the comments! We can always learn from each other.
          Remember family is important in a child's life and we all must make an effort to be able to give that child the best family experience possible. After all love in all it's forms is what helps children thrive.

12 Tips For Being The Best Grandparents (For the parents and the children)

Nick's stepdad with Xavier.

1) The less you see of the grandchild the more you get to spoil him/her.
    This may sound harsh. You moved to be close to your grandchildren. You want to help out and play with them as much as possible. However, you must realize if you are seeing that child regularly you have to set rules and you have to discipline. Or quite frankly your beautiful, loving grandchild will turn into a spoiled brat. If however, you live far away from your grandchildren than you are able to spoil them more. The parents should be more lenient on letting you spoil them as they know the child does not get to see you very often. 

2) Teach that different houses have different rules.
    Perhaps your grand child plays with the magnets on their refrigerator because they are toys and alphabet letters, but yours are nice pictures of relatives and lists and information you need so you do not want them to play with them. A simple "NO, not at this house" should work depending on the age of the child. However, stress to the grandchildren that different houses have different rules, what they do at home may not work in your house and what they do in your house may not be allowed at home. This also works for any relative or friends' house. Make sure the child knows when entering a different house there are different rules. No need to go over every single one all at once,  you can take them as they happen unless you think there is a crucial one, such as no pulling the dogs tail or he will bite you.

My grandmother, Xavier, myself and Nick.

3) Try to keep to the child's regular schedule as much as possible no matter what.
    This is one of the biggest mistakes I see grandparents making and the most complained about with parents. As a parent I admit I am not always crazy that I have to wait for my child to finish a nap before going out for the day or having to have an early dinner so he can go to bed by eight o'clock. However, there is a reason why we do this, especially with little ones. We do this so they are not cranky. Children love and thrive on routine and especially if they are visiting you, keeping them in their normal routine makes them feel better and more open and happy to experience the other new things with you. Of course, take in consideration rule #1. If you are only visiting for a couple of days suggest perhaps you take a drive during nap time so the baby can rest. Or at least realize that when the child is acting out he/she is because they are off of their routine. When the parents are upset it is because they are off of their routine as well and it is rough on all of us. So a good thing to do is if you have to take the child off their routine try to spend extra time with the child doing something they like. Do not insist they skip a nap so you can take them to a playground then around five o'clock when your little grand baby is throwing a hissy fit do not hide and let the parents deal with it. Help by distracting the child with a new or favorite activity. This will relieve the parents and the child.

4) Keep your discipline techniques similar to mom and dads
     You may not agree with mom and dads "no spanking" approach or "time outs only" approach, but respect the fact that you were in their shoes once and you would not have liked it if your toes got stepped on for discipline. Most good parents do a lot of research, talking and soul searching trying to find the right ways they think they should discipline their children. It may not be the way you raised them, but perhaps they want to try a different approach and if you truly love your son or daughter and grandchild respect their opinion and try to enforce rules with their type of discipline. Most parents expect grandparents to go light on their children anyway so do not worry if you just say "NO" instead of the full time out. However, be sure if they do something very dangerous or are about to, you make sure to discipline them accordingly. Remember this also relates back to rule #1 if you see your grandchild a lot you must discipline more often for little things. If you cannot see them as often you can let a lot of things slide and just focus on the big things.

Nick's stepdad, Xavier and Nick's mom.

5) Do not break a parenting rule
    I admit some of us parents may have some odd rules. However, remember we are new at this so whatever silly rule it is, do not break it. I once told my mother in law while watching Xavier that he is not supposed to have anymore milk to drink (he had drank a ton already that day). However, when she gave him cereal she did not even give him milk with the cereal. We would have certainly allowed that, but just the thought that she respected our wishes meant a lot to us. So what may seem silly to you may be a real thing for the parents and child and even if it is not, you will just start a rift between the parents and yourselves by breaking something that they specifically told you NOT to do.

6) Be sensitive to mom and dad and do not criticize
    This is especially important at first and if it is a first or only child. Remember we are new at this, we already are constantly wondering if we are doing the right thing. We do not need you saying "well, when I raised all eight kids I never breastfed them and they are fine". Give your new parents support for whatever they are doing. That is what we need most. If we have a genuine question you will be the first that we ask. Of course, if something is completely dangerous speak your mind, but make sure you are being helpful not critical. Too often I see grandparents using the same advice they used on their children. Be sure to update yourself with the new techniques for watching your grandchildren. Like it or not a lot has changed since you raised your child, whether you agree with it or not your children do and that is how they are raising your grandchild. Be sure to support and help them as much as you can.

My dad and Xavier

7) Give advice sparingly and only when necessary
     Do not be upset if your children do not ask or take your advice. Most likely it is because from the moment we announce the pregnancy everyone that we know and even do not know offers us unsolicited advice for the rest of our child's life. As much as we do value your advice most of the time we want our children to be with their grandparents for the connection and love not the advice. If it is needed we will ask you. You can offer advice when you see a situation starting to get worse, but be very gentle and offer more as a suggestion rather than "what you need to do..." it goes over much better with parents if you say "you know I used to try this....and it worked well, perhaps you might want to try that?". 

8) Praise parents as much as you can
   We are new at this. We realize you are not and know you raised us pretty well, however, we are always unsure, blundering around trying to find our way around this parenting thing. The last thing we want to hear is criticism that sticks with us for a long time. Try instead pointing out some good or even great things you notice the parents doing with their children. That will reinforce their self confidence and help to seal your relationship even more with them and your grandchild.

My mom (stepmom) and Xavier.

9) Make special memories with your grandchildren
    Nothing annoys a parent more than when we bring our kids to see their grandparents and you ignore them, go about your day, or sit them in front of the television. We are bringing them to you because we are hoping that you will give them the same magical memories that we have had from you when we were little. We want our children to have a family connection and loving relationship with their grandparents as much as you want it with them. So spend time with them and do things that they can remember and say "I did that with grandpa!". You get extra bonus points if you do something with the grandchildren that you know a parent did as a child as we want our children to have at least the same great memories of their childhood if not even better.

10) Offer help
   Many grandparents are reluctant to ask to help out for fear that they are intruding. For the most part any parent welcomes at least the offer of help. Just because we may say "no thanks" once does not mean it is never needed. It just may not be the right time.
          Not sure how to help? Parents frequently need the following things and would love it if any grandparent did any of these for them.
          Offer babysitting even if for a few hours while you are visiting. Perhaps mom and dad just want a dinner alone or a nap or to run to the grocery store without carting everyone. Babysitting from grandparents is always appreciated. If you think you may have a hard time watching the children by yourself try offering at night. Kids tend to go to bed by eight or nine o'clock. Mom and dad may want to be able to go out at night with some friends but usually have to sit home to listen out in case a child wakes up. Take the night shift. Another great shift is the morning shift. Get the child up and feed them and change them in the morning and let mom and dad sleep in. Most of us parents will not turn that down. However, be sure to ask before doing this as some children have a specific morning routine you may want to stick to.
         Other ways you can help out are by helping with laundry or by making meals and bringing them over, or making them freezable, or by giving restaurant gift cards. You can also offer to run errands, grocery stores are a big one. Many parents would love it if a grandparent brought some groceries for them.
       If you are able to financially help, the parents could always use the extra financials as all expenses go up with children. If you are uncomfortable giving money some ideas are to buy your grandchildren things, it saves us from having to get them. Avoid buying tons of toys unless it is a holiday or special occasion. Instead, some great items are any furniture, cribs, changing tables, rocking chairs, beds, toddler beds, highchairs, strollers, car seats, diapers, wipes, baby lotion, baby wash, baby food/formula, shoes, socks and pajamas are always much needed items. Be sure for furniture and big items you check with mom especially as she may have a certain crib or bed picked out already, but offering to get it is a nice gesture that she will really appreciate.
       As kids are older clothing such as shoes, socks, pajamas, coats, sunglasses and just regular clothes are always running low and we are always in need of so feel free to grab some socks with those groceries! Also, with school coming up offer to help with school supplies that your grandchildren may need.

Nick's mom reading to Xavier at Christmas

11) Make holidays special for your grandchildren
   Every holiday is a holiday because it is a time you spend with loved ones. If you cannot be there in person be sure to send a special card to the grand child, call them, Skype with them or have some special tradition you do with them for each particular holiday especially their birthday. Try to be there for as many holidays as you can. As hard as it may seem,  your children and grandchildren do want you there as much as you can be for holidays and parents will usually go out of their way to invite you and make sure you are happy with the arrangements. Remember we want our children to have the great family memories we had and having you there is part of that plus you can add in new traditions and make the holidays more fun for all of us!

Nick's late father, Nick and Xavier

12) Have a special secret with each grandchild
   Of course you do not keep big secrets from parents, but make sure that the grandchild sees you as someone in their life that they can always confide in. So by having a special secret you share, or a special thing only you both do always helps. I remember talking to my grandmother for hours about books and we would read them all page by page. I never did that with my parents and it was a special bond that we shared. Remember parents want their children to have a special bond with you so be sure to take time to create it.

I hope these rules help bring out more love in your family!

My parents and Xavier

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  1. Hi, I went to school with Nick. I am a Grandparent now and I still have a younger child at home. I get a kick out of reading your blog and watching you guys grow as parents. This post has a lot of great advice in it. The only thing that I can add right off the top of my head is for the parents to remember that the Grandparents have been there and experienced the same exact things that you are going through. It doesn't matter if it was 5 years ago or 50. In addition to knowledge from experience, you have to keep in mind that Grandparents lead a full life too in most cases. Be respectful and don't be upset when Grandparents don't drop everything to work around your schedule. If you are lucky, by the time your grandchildren come along you will be able to do some of the things that you didn't get to do and go places that you've always wanted to go. My Grandchildren were blessed by knowing several of their great, great Grandparents and were old enough to remember them for a lifetime. All of the Grandparents in my family set a example for the children by being as active as possible which also gives us even more to share withour Grandchildren. You guys are doing a great job with your little fella. Do you see any siblings in the near future? Thanks for sharing your family.

    1. Hi Katherine, Thanks for reading and enjoying all our posts. That is a great tip to remember as well. I forgot about that one and it is great to get a grandparent perspective on these. I'm so glad that your grandchildren have so many family members that love them. That is the most important part. We are hoping to add another sibling in a year or so. We are ironing out some things medically and financially and will back into the baby swing of things soon, but for now we are just enjoying our little man and the laughter and love he brings us everyday! Thanks for your lovely comment and for your loyal friendship.



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