BY CHERYL HARBOUR – Author My GRANDbaby – for new and expecting grandparents
Will you be hands-on or on the sidelines? Will you love this grandbaby long distance or up close or personal? Will a little grandparenting go a long way or will you never be able to get enough? Will you be the soft lap kind of grandparent, always ready to listen with a shoulder to cry on? Will you be a “memorable moments” grandparent, with tickets to Disney World or Broadway?
Your own GRAND Personality:
Just as personality tests reveal that every person is a combination of traits and factors, so developing your GRAND personality will be influenced by certain factors.
There are four main factors that influence the nature of your GRAND new role:
- Relationship with the baby’s parents
Consider the “shades” of difference in each of these and consider where you fit on the spectrum.
Proximity: Near or Far
Some grandparents live around the corner from their grandchildren while others live around the globe. How close you live may determine how often you see them and how intertwined your lives become. If they live nearby, your grandchild and their mom or dad might stop over on the way home from the grocery store. You may be asked to fill in for spur of the moment childcare – or even be asked to provide child care on a daily or weekly basis for working parents.
If you live further away, your relationship may grow through visits. Experienced grandparents tell us that although visits may be arranged differently – you go to them, they come to you, or you meet in a third location – grandparents often need to be the ones to initiate the event.
In lieu of visits – or in between visits – technology has given grandparents a gift: the ability to stay connected through Facetime or Skype. It truly is the next best thing to being there.
Ability: Unlimited or Limited
Ability means different things. Physical ability, of course, determines what kinds of activities you’ll enjoy with your grandchild. Some grandparents are more active – they’re on the playground or rolling around on the living room floor. Less able bodies may offer a quieter connection…rocking, reading, singing, talking.
Financial ability also can affect how often you get together – and what activities you do.
Your own commitments – involving work or other members of the family – determine the time you have available to spend with each grandchild.
There are as many different styles of grandparenting as there are grandparents. Fortunately, grandbabies don’t come with pre-set criteria for how Grandma or Granddad must be. If you love them, they will love you.
Relationship with the Baby’s Parents: Warm or Cool
Grandparents are not in the driver’s seat of this new baby’s life, we’re in the sidecar. We’re not the ones losing sleep from the heavy responsibility of nurturing human life for the next couple of decades. But we are coming along for the adventure.
Most grands earned the right to be a grandparent by raising a child. (Some “inherited” a child through marriage.) Chances are the relationship you’ve had with your son or daughter and partner has already set a tone. But with a new baby in the family circle, there’s a greater need than ever for communication, cooperation, and mutual respect.
Desire: Strong or Mild
Some grandparents can’t get enough of their grandchildren. Others prefer their grandchildren in small doses. Be honest with yourself and have the courage to be authentic in your grandparenting.
What will your grandparent style be?
By combining these factors and thinking through where you fit on the spectrum, you can begin to see your grandparenting style.
With an honest appraisal, your factors might make you a NUWS grandparent. You’re Near (you live around the corner to your grandchild), Unlimited (you have abundant finances, boundless energy and plenty of available time), Warm (you have a close, stress-free relationship with your son or daughter and partner), and Strong (you find being a grandparent stimulating and fulfilling every moment you spend with your grandchild). But, not that many people have all those factors working for them.
So, if your factors turn out to be FLCM – Far, Limited, Cool, and Mild — your grandparenting personality would be different with some challenges.
Desire comes last on the list of factors because it’s a powerful force.
Advice from experienced grandparents suggests that desire and effort can contribute greatly to your relationship. Here are a few tips:
Please make numbers big and cute
- Share what you love. Your genuine enthusiasm for fishing, painting, bird watching, or dancing holds a strong attraction for your grandchild.
- Develop special things – a place you go, a toy or book at your house, a nickname only you use for your grandchild. Children remember these connections.
- Find ways to overcome any obstacles. If you’re on a tight budget – use your creativity. Write stories for your grandchild and illustrate them with photos from magazines.
- If you live far from your grandchild, use Facetime or Skype as often as possible
- Keep the relationship with your grandbaby’s parents strong and positive. If bridges need mending, mend them. Approach the relationship with patience and empathy. Many new parents find they appreciate grandparents more as time passes.
Wherever you are on the grandparent spectrum, it’s possible to develop a rewarding relationship that is exactly right for you and your grandbaby.
Here are some very unscientific quizzes to indicate your grandparenting style:
- Q. My husband and I sometimes feel like ‘left out’ grandparents. Our grandbaby’s other grandparents live closer, have more time, and are the parents of the baby’s mom, who seems to be the one setting the schedule. How can we keep our relationship with our new grandchild from becoming ‘second best?’
- A. This situation often arises because no two grandparents are exactly alike or “equal” in every respect. Most successful grandparents agree it’s not good to compete with the other grandparents. Respecting them is the wiser course of action. Confidence and consideration get better results than comparison and competition. Carve out your own special role in your grandchild’s life.
Tips from experienced grandparents for getting along:
- Honesty is good, but some things are better left unsaid.
- Don’t criticize the baby’s parents in front of other relatives.
- Don’t criticize the other grandparents.
- Don’t criticize your son or daughter-in-law with your child.
- Respect the rules and routines the parents set. Don’t be the one who does exactly what the parents asked you not to – even if you think you know better.
- Be true to yourself. Develop a special bond with your grandchild based on who you really are.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR – CHERYL HARBOUR
Cheryl Harbour is the special editor of our “My GRANDbaby” section and author of Good to Be Grand: making the Most of your Grandchild’s First Year, a combination of up-to-date information and grandparently inspiration.