Q: How can grandparents help new parents without wearing out their welcome? I’m excited to play an active and positive role in my grandchild’s life, but I want to be careful to respect appropriate boundaries with my son and daughter-in-law.
A: As a grandparent, you can have a profound impact on the lives and outlook of your children and grandchildren. The value of the perspective you’ve gained after raising your own children can’t be overstated. It’s an incredible gift to help grown children see their offspring through the eyes of a hopelessly love-struck grandparent, rather than viewing them as a source of non-stop responsibility.
Perhaps the greatest gift you have to offer is the gift of your time. New parents need a break every once in a while. This is particularly important for single mums, but it applies in the case of married couples as well. You might suggest a specific time (“How about if I come over Wednesday night around six so you can get out for a couple of hours?”), rather than something vague (“Let me know if I can help”). Or you can extend an open invitation to call you whenever they feel they’ve reached the end of their rope.
By the way, here’s an important piece of advice about giving advice. If you aren’t in complete agreement with the way your grown children are raising your grandchildren, be very careful about the way you broach that subject, especially with a daughter-in-law or son-in-law.
Remember: as parents, they have the final say and responsibility for the way their children are reared, and your duty in nearly every situation is to abide by their decisions. The exception, of course, is if an irresponsible parent’s behaviour or neglect is exposing a child to harm. Otherwise, offer advice only if asked, and work at building a relationship in which you can compare notes and share the benefits of your parenting experience.
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