14 Ways to be a Good Grandparent

14 Ways to be a Good Grandparent

Most grandparents are thrilled when the first grandchild comes along.  Shortly after that a realization may set in that you don’t really know what to do or not do to be a good grandparent.  People will differ about what characteristics should be present in a “good” grandparent.  For purposes of this article, a good grandparent is one who (1) conveys love and acceptance toward the child; (2) is a good listener; (3) doesn’t interfere with the responsible parenting decisions of mom and dad; (4) shares family history and stories in a positive way; and (5) encourages the child to grow in knowledge, skills, and responsibility to family and community.  For those grandparents whose health, wealth, proximity and skills make it possible, a good grandparent will also, upon request, assist with occasional childcare, support the child’s educational experiences, teach special skills, share in outdoor activities, and assist with medical or educational expenses.  Each grandparent needs to take into account his or her own time, interests, resources, skills and personality and that of the child’s parents to determine what role is most appropriate.

Which of these grandparent types apply to you?

1.     Substitute Parent:  On a full-time or nearly full-time basis the grandparent takes on nearly all responsibilities of the parent, perhaps due to death or disability of the parent or employment out of the area.

2.     Childcare Grandparent:   Cares for grandchild on an on-going basis 3-5 days per week.

3.     Vacation Grandparent:  Provides extended care for grandchild during a vacation period or invites the child to join in a vacation of the grandparent, after first getting ok of parents.

4.     Event Planner Grandparent:  Organizes family reunions and other special events to get family members, especially cousins, to socialize and have fun activities together.

5.     Holiday Grandparent:  Attends holiday gatherings and birthday celebrations, sends greeting cards and/or small gifts for birthdays and other special days.  May also participate in holiday phone calls and internet visits.

6.     Active Neighborhood Grandparent:  Lives nearby and facilitates activities such as music lessons, Camp Fire or Scout functions, sports practices, etc.

7.     Advocate Grandparent:  With prior agreement of the parents, provides opportunity for grandchild to participate in activities promoting a particular cause, such as protection of the environment, civil rights or the political process.

8.     Intellectual Grandparent:  Shares many books, stories and educational activities.  Looks for learning opportunities in everyday tasks.  Always interested to learn more about family life and child development, while being careful not to be too intrusive.

9.     Long-distance Grandparent:  Visits grandchild for several days 2-3 times per year, when convenient for child’s parents, often for a holiday, birthday or special event at school, in sports, or for a music or organizational activity.  May set up a regular schedule of internet communication using Facetime or similar software.

10.  Needy Grandparent:  Because health or other issues make other interactions difficult or impossible, the needy grandparent may be more a recipient of assistance than a participant in activities.  The needy grandparent can demonstrate how a person can politely ask for assistance and show appreciation when that assistance is given.  The grandchild and the grandchild’s parents have the opportunity to demonstrate love and compassion to someone in need. Most needy grandparents will still have listening skills and be able to demonstrate love and caring toward grandchildren. The grandparent’s stories about family history will help the child understand the people they are related to.

11.  Cooking Grandparent:  Demonstrates a joy in cooking for the family, making healthy foods for home, hikes and picnics. Provides opportunities for grandchild to participate in the food preparation and to learn cooking skills. Cooking grandparents need to get permission of the grandchild’s parents before cooking in their home.

12.  Glamorous Grandparent:  This grandparent has a different lifestyle than the grandchild’s parents, may wear fancier clothes, travel to exotic locations and love to bring the grandchild unusual gifts. Special care needs to be taken to avoid conflicts with parents, but the glamorous grandparent can add excitement and a different perspective on life to the grandchild’s life.  This grandparent may have the resources to pay for special enrichment activities that will benefit the grandchild, if the parents agree.

13.  Multiple city Grandparent:  Travels around the country at regular intervals to visit grandchildren in various cities, taking care to spend a similar amount of time with each family, if agreeable to the parents.  May take older grandchildren on car trips or for college visits.

14.  Rich Grandparent:  In consultation with the parents, may include grandchildren in tax avoidance estate planning, taking care not to make the gifts too large and making provision for any special needs the children may have. While capable of making expensive gifts to the grandchildren, the rich grandparent makes sure the parents are in agreement with the gift and that it will contribute to the grandchild’s growth and development, rather than become an unhealthy diversion.  The rich grandparent helps with college expenses when needed, but keeps careful records of gifts and loans so that friction does not development from perceived unfairness among multiple children and grandchildren.

For another perspective, take a look at: What Are Grandparents For?  https://discussion.roadscholar.org/b/blog/posts/what-are-grandparents-for

You may also want to review this blog post about seniors using Facebook, a tool that can make it easier to stay in touch with grandchildren:  Your Grandmother is on Facebook and That’s a Good Thing - https://notyourgrandmothers70.com/2018/01/07/your-grandmother-is-on-facebook-and-thats-a-good-thing/

Personal note:

I wrote this blog post after facing the reality that we each need to find our own path to being a grandparent.  I observed all the wonderful things my friends do for their grandchildren and began to realize that much of what I saw and heard would not work for my family.  I felt a need to zero in on what is most important in the grandparent relationship and to focus on all the different ways those basic goals could be met.  During the past five years we have had an explosion of new children added to our extended family.  Our two children and our four nieces and nephews have had seven children with two more on the way. I will have lots of opportunities to try out my ideas, while also recognizing I will never be the “perfect” grandparent or great aunt, if there is such a thing.

About the art:

I recently had the pleasure of touring the Legion of Honor Art Museum in San Francisco, where they were featuring a special exhibit of art by Austrian painter Gustav Klimt, whose work I have admired since my college days. I brought home several reproductions, one of which is “Baby (Cradle)” dated 1917.  The picture is fascinating because you can barely see the baby for all the colorful cloths piled on top.  The painting illustrates for me all the different expectations placed on the child from many different directions.  They don’t match each other and together they are overwhelming.  It’s a reminder that we need to prioritize the assistance we offer, coordinate our efforts with others, and make sure we aren’t overbearing in our efforts.

The second Klimt painting, shown below, is entitled “Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I” and is dated 1907. This art might seem out of place when the topic is “grandparenting,” but it reminds me of the “Rich and Glamorous” grandparents I described above.  Today’s grandparents come in many varieties.  We do not fit the stereotype so often seen of a white-haired lady in a rocking chair with knitting needles in hand and a cat at her feet.  Anyone can be a good grandparent, rich or poor, educated or just warm-hearted, as long as the focus is on the well-being of the child and good relations with the child’s parents.

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Carolyn Hayek

 Baby (Cradle) - 1917 - by Gustav Klimt, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Baby (Cradle) - 1917 - by Gustav Klimt, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

 Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I - 1907 by Gustav Klimt - Neue Galerie, NY

Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I - 1907 by Gustav Klimt - Neue Galerie, NY