So you’re about to become a grandparent!? A lot of giggles, cooing, smiling, and talking are ahead…..and the babies will do some of that as well! As I prepare to become “Grandma Bev” to a 15th child in a couple months, it is good to review some basic guidelines on how to be the best grandparent possible.
We begin praying for our grandchildren while they are still being formed in their mothers’ wombs. This is only the start of being a prayer-intercessor for them that continues as long as we have breath. Many people tell stories of how the faithful prayers of their grandparent made a significant difference in their lives. Carrying them to the feet of Jesus in our prayers is a privilege, a responsibility, and a source of peace.
Regardless of the circumstances of the pregnancy, we can rejoice that God is creating a unique and special human being for whom He has good things planned (Jeremiah 29:11). There are times when becoming a grandparent for the first time comes with particular challenges (such as a teen pregnancy). We can still acknowledge that there are no “unplanned” babies in God’s sight and seek to be an ambassador of His loving grace in the midst of the situation.
They will not parent exactly like you did. They will have their own ways of doing things and many guidelines have changed since you had a baby. Feeding options, sleeping positions, seat belt laws, types of cribs and bedding, and much more may seem strange to you. Take some time to become familiar with current recommendations. Remember this is their baby, not yours. Don’t assume that all your expectations will come true.
Let parents lead.
Ask them the best way to help; is it doing household chores, laundry, fixing a meal? Especially at the beginning, the new parents may want to take advantage of the time to bond with their little one and hesitate to have others hold or care for him or her. Take my word for it, there will be plenty of times coming when the parents will appreciate having you hold or care for your grandchild. So be patient and be supportive rather than controlling.
Wait to be asked for advice and, if that happens, be brief and positive. Saying “this is how I used to do it” or “I think you should…” can be interpreted as criticism. Be open and available while sensitive to their needs and your level of involvement. Be ready to see them make what you consider to be mistakes. Didn’t we make our own share of childrearing mistakes? I know I did, and yet my children still survived. Eating schedules, nap routines, baptism decisions, and (especially these days) giving “creative” names to the child are all things that don’t rise to a level worth damaging your relationships. My husband and I raised our children very differently in many ways from our own upbringing; our grown children may do similarly with our grandchildren. Be open, gracious, and available without being a nuisance or a critic.
Respect their boundaries.
Follow the parents’ rules and abide by their decisions. If they are restricting sugar, toy guns, or Barbie dolls and ask you to do the same when the child is in your care, do so. Check with parents before giving gifts, and be sure it is age-appropriate. For example, parents may have determined a certain age before a child may have a cell phone or some other technology. If they leave a detailed list of foods or bedtimes when at your home, do your best to comply. Otherwise, your time with the grandchild may be limited since the parents are the gatekeepers. Always communicate to your grandchildren the respect you have for their parents as the ones with the ultimate responsibility and authority over them.
Comparison between grandchildren, whether your own or those of your friends, is not productive. Each child is one-of-a-kind (even twins have differences). Another trap is comparing yourself to the other sets of grandparents. One author termed this “granimosity.” You are not in a competition. Be the best person and grandparent God created you to be; you are one-of-a-kind, too.
Prepare your home to be a welcome place. Child-proofing outlets, moving fragile items out of reach, and having a few baby supplies (diapers, bibs, wipes, toys) on hand demonstrates an inviting readiness for visits. We keep Bible storybooks for varying ages to have available for reading with our grandchildren, beginning in infancy. Along with physical preparations, be prepared to be stretched in this new role. You will have disappointments as well as joys. You will learn more about grace and grow spiritually as you allow God to continue His work conforming you to the likeness of Jesus through these days.
Becoming a new grandparent for the first time is very exciting. Even though you may have questions or challenges, it is a very joyful experience to see or hold this new member of your family. Familiar memories will be there along with new emotions.
No matter how many grandchildren I have or how long I’ve had the “Grandma” title, there is always more to learn. And each time a baby is born, God has performed a miracle.