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Balancing life as a grandparent

by Kim Jacobs

Posted on April 4, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 13 at 1:48 PM

As a new grandparent you already know that so much has changed since you were a parent.  Children today seem to receive less discipline and a lot of freedom to do as they please. As grandparents you can make the most of the precious family time that you get to spend with your grandchildren. You can create deep, loving relationships with your grandchildren by sharing the things you love with them, and by learning about what excites them. Today’s tips will help you balance life as a grandparent.

Be clear about what you want your role to be.  How often do you want to babysit? Do you want to be notified about family extracurricular events so that you can attend? Do you want to go on family outings? Do you want to see your grandchildren a certain amount of times a week?  You have to be clear with the parents about what you want to do with your grandchildren.

Tell stories about family history.  Telling stories about your childhood as well as ones about raising their parents will be very informative to your grandchild. Telling stories about the accomplishments of other relatives, like the first person in the family to go to college and the first person to live through a specific historical era in time.  Tell your grandchildren what the times were like without TV, microwaves, cell phones, video games.  It will be hard for them to imagine those days, but it helps provide a link between the past, present and future.

Honor the parent’s rules and reinforce them.  Consistency is important for children, so any punishment the parents use for certain behaviors should also be enforced when your grandchildren are with you.  For example, if the parent puts a child in time out for certain behaviors then you should do the same.  A grandparent who won’t enforce limits and gives in to their grandchild’s every whim can serious problems with the parents. If you choose to disregard the parents policies and allow your grandkids to misbehave, overindulge in candy and junk food, or ignore bedtimes you’re only encouraging unhealthy behavior and making their parents’ job so much harder.

Don’t show favoritism.  Be sensitive to not play favorites and to give each grandchild the same treatment.  Even if you are going to give one on one time to one grandchild, make sure you have dates for the other grandchildren to experience that one-on-one time with you too. If you buy something for one child, outside of a birthday, you should make sure you have something for everyone or don’t get anything at all!

Do creative activities. Show your grandchild that there are alternatives to TV, try board games, card games and puzzles, or read to them.  You and your grandchild can even do a hobby together, which children really enjoy.  My grandmother loves to crochet, and she spent time teaching each of my children how to thread the needle properly and crochet for a few minutes each – THEY LOVED IT!!! It is a treat for children to get invited into their grandparent’s world of fun. These are great bonding exercises.

Take a trip with your child and grandchildren. Taking a trip with your grandchildren will help you create special memories together. Special trips, whether it’s a day trip or a week-long resort vacation, will always be remembered by the child as a special journey with grandma or grandpa. These special getaways will offer opportunities to discover new parts of the world together with your grandchildren.

Long Distance Grand parenting:

For the computer-savvy grandparent. Video Conferencing (Skype, Tango, etc.) can help shorten the distance and allow you to keep in touch with your grandchildren and see them for free. You can also text with your grandchildren or email them or instant message them or Face Time with them on the I phone. 

Snail mail. Children love getting mail addressed to them.  They love feeling important by receiving special mail.

Send a recording.  You can record yourself reading a few of your favorite children's books and send the recording along with the books, or record yourself singing a few songs and send them to your grandchild. This works best for younger grandchildren.