If parents are the acrobats in the parenthood circus, then good grandparents are the safety net. They don’t have to perform the stunts required from parents, but they are always there to provide support when needed.
Many childcare worries faced by new parents can easily be avoided if there are wise grandparents nearby to provide guidance and support. Unfortunately, the world is smaller today than it was thirty or forty odd years ago.
Families are living further apart, with some living halfway across the world. This can lead new parent to feel isolated, and isolation can blow minor problems out of proportion, turning them into major stresses. It’s no surprise that modern parents find parenting challenging.
For new parents who are exhausted after weeks of disturbed sleep, grand parents can offer major help, looking after the baby whilst the new mother takes a much-needed rest. And for families with no choice but for both parents to go to work, grandparents can provide free childcare. But, grandparents aren’t just good for babysitting or free childcare; they also offer a great deal of practical experience if parents are willing to listen.
The problem comes when grandparents and parents have conflicting ideas about childcare, discipline and other issues. In this case, grandparents became interfering people who pose a threat to parents, and parents became ingrates, who don’t realise the blessings having grandparents around to help.
So, before World War III erupts it is best for both parties to make an effort to tread carefully, so as not to step into each other’s toes.
Grandparents should employ diplomacy and wisdom that befits their age and experience, while parents need to use restraint and learn not to be easily offended when grandparents dish out advice.
If you are a grandparent, it may be difficult for you to stand by and watch your own children make the same mistakes you made 20 years ago, but it is best not to tell adults what they should do with their own children, as this will be met with hostility and resistance. Like clever advisers, you should use subtlety, like dropping hints, to influence parents. And if at some point, you temporarily have to look after your grandchildren, don’t take this as your license to take charge on how to raise them. You are not the parents. You can provide temporary management, but you should never take over.
As for parents, you should take advice in the spirit in which it is given. It is useless to fight advice, so accept them graciously. After all, you don’t have to act on it. Additionally, if you are happy for the grandparents to look after your children, you must accept that they will expect to have some say about your children’s care whilst they are temporarily in-charged. Yes, you can manage without the grandparents, but life is easier if they are around.