Expert Advice

Your guide to becoming a dearly loved grandparent

Is a family member anticipating the patter of little feet? Parenting expert and psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg shares tips for navigating your special role

Respond to the pregnancy news with joy

The Grandparenting Code begins when you get the news that you are going to become a grandparent. In almost every situation, “Congratulations!” is the only appropriate response. Let your child and/or their partner know that you are looking forward to being a grandparent. Once they make the decision to have a baby, your only job is to treat this as good news. The theme is positivity, support and respect. Don’t immediately bombard them with questions – they will tell you what you need to know.

Honour any request to keep news of the impending birth secret

It’s vital to honour the wishes of the couple/person having the baby with regard to spreading the news. This can be a sensitive and emotional time, especially for parents who might have experienced miscarriages or a sudden infant death. Waiting for the green light to share the news is kind and respectful.

When your grandchild first comes home, wait to be invited over

It’s particularly important not to turn up to the hospital/home until invited. No doubt you’ll be extremely excited to meet your new grandchild as soon as the little one arrives, but when a person is recuperating from childbirth, a horde of family members descending can be stressful and exhausting. So back off and wait for the summons. It ultimately depends on factors such as the parents’ wishes, and the health and wellbeing of both the baby and the new parents.

Don't give the new parents unsolicited advice

During the profound journey that is pregnancy and the post-birth period, mothers and their partners often receive a deluge of spontaneous counsel from all directions. These days, even perfect strangers feel entitled to offer parenting advice to brand-new parents and it can be overwhelming, confusing and annoying. The role of a grandparent-to-be is to reduce the parents’ stress, and you can do this by listening and not offering advice unless you are asked directly.

Did you know: Babies are born with 300 bones, but no kneecaps. Newborns already know their mother’s taste in music and have three times the number of taste buds as adults.

Offer reassurance and encouragement

For a first-time parent or someone who has previously lost a child through miscarriage or perinatal death, pregnancy can be a time filled with uncertainty and anxiety. Remind them that this is a major life transition. Tell them not to be afraid to ask for help, that it’s okay to make mistakes and to take care of themselves, physically and emotionally.

Don't comment negatively on the name

When it comes to grandparents’ involvement, there are some areas that are strictly off-limits – and that includes baby names. This is an area where, unless you’re asked for your opinion, you really can’t get involved. Your initial response to being told the names the parents have selected will be remembered, so keep it neutral.

Be positive when you meet the child and be realistic about your feelings

When you do get an invitation and can meet your grandchild for the very first time, you really should have only one response, “What a beautiful baby!” Some grandparents recall meeting each of their grandchildren for the first time as a happy event, while others admit the bonding didn’t always happen right away. Allow for all feelings and find someone other than the child’s parents to talk them through with. Also, resist the urge to stamp the child with your DNA. Avoid making comments like, “Look at those eyes – just like mine!”

Spend one-on-one time with your grandchild - and play, if time allows

Given that the special connection between grandparents and grandchildren has a very positive influence on development, try to spend as much time as possible one-on-one with each of your grandkids. Grandparents are a source of positive memories and can provide an emotional safety net – a support system that can bolster young people’s emotional and psychological wellbeing. Also keep in mind the importance of play in the physical, social, emotional and cognitive development of the child. A one-on-one grandma or grandpa date can be an opportunity to form a deeper bond and create positive memories.

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