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Did you know that there are rules for grandparents?
Well… maybe not officially… but there are DEFINITELY things that every new grandparent should know about grand-parenting (and parenting) when their own kids become parents!
A must-read for new grandparents!
As a postpartum doula, I occasionally get requests to talk to a baby’s grandparents on behalf of the new parents. (There are often things that are better received coming from a childbirth professional.)
Unfortunately, a new baby’s parents and grandparents may not always be on the same page. This can be a tremendous heartache for both the parents and the grandparents!
But, in the event of a new baby, it is usually the grandparents who need to yield.
Rules for grandparents
In this post, I am speaking on behalf of the new parent.
I will be discussing some of the most common concerns that new parents want to communicate to their own parents after having a baby.
My mission? To get parents and grandparents on the same page when it comes to the newborn season!
Much of the responsibility for relationship harmony during the postpartum season falls on the grandparents’ shoulders.
Not because the new parents are necessarily “right” about everything, but because it is the role of a grandparent to offer love and support to their children who are the baby’s parents.
I call these “rules for grandparents” and they include such topics as boundaries, respect, acceptance and even up-to-date parenting practices that are very different from twenty five years ago!
My perspective: doula and grandma
I have the unique perspective of being a childbirth professional who works closely with new parents in addition to being a grandparent myself. 🙂
I know first-hand how challenging it can be to “bite my tongue” when I have a differing opinion, or to be supportive when my adult children make parenting choices that I don’t agree with.
Sometimes I struggle to not judge, criticize or disrespect my adult children’s decisions. The struggle is real, though, and I’m the first to admit that I’m not perfect when it comes to grand-parenting or supporting my adult children who are also parents!
So… when you read this post, please know that I am also addressing myself with these words of correction and counsel.
Mother vs. Mother
As a doula, I often find myself listening to a young mother as she vents her frustrations with her own mother or mother-in-law.
I hear the pain of that new mom who feels unsupported, criticized, judged or disrespected by her baby’s grandmother. But, I understand that grandmother’s perspective, too.
I wish that I could help that new mama and grand-mama to smooth out their relationship difficulties, but I sometimes feel powerless to do so!
That is the inspiration for this blog post…
…to help bridge that communication gap that often exists between new parents and grandparents.
For grandparents only….
Of course there are always two sides to every conflict… but, for the purpose of this post… I am siding with the new mama and focusing mainly on one side of this issue… grandparents!
I’m going to share what I’ve noticed to be some of the biggest complaints that new parents (especially new moms) have with their baby’s grandparents.
If you are a mother (or mother-in-law) to a new mama or mama-to-be, then this post may be especially helpful for you!
Below are 12 things that every new parent wishes their baby’s grandparents knew!
Related: 25 Rules for Visiting a Newborn
12 Rules for Grandparents
1. Don’t offer unsolicited parenting advice
This is often one of the hardest things that new parents have to deal with… and not ONLY from you, either! For some reason, even strangers feel entitled to offer parenting advice to brand new parents and it can be overwhelming, confusing and annoying.
Even though you mean well, try to withhold your comments, advice and suggestions unless you are asked.
A big reason for this is because advice is often interpreted by the new parents as criticism.
Expectant parents today spend months researching pregnancy, childbirth and newborn care. Generally speaking, today’s new parents are very well-informed. Your children may have already decided on a parenting philosophy that may differ from yours.
Your advice may be welcomed and appreciated, OR it may have the opposite effect causing conflict, frustration and hard feelings.
Not only that, but older generations may also be spreading outdated or simply “bad” baby advice that can be dangerous to new moms and babies!
If you want to be a supportive mother or mother-in-law, read this post before offering ANY advice!
2. Understand that medical recommendations have changed since you had children
Some new grandparents find themselves at odd’s with today’s medical recommendations. Yes, things have changed. 😉
Most likely, your grandchild’s doctor or hospital has already educated the new parents on many of these new practices before or shortly after your grandchild was born.
Safe sleep practices, car seat recommendations, breastfeeding information and bottle feeding methods have all changed in the last 25 years.
New scientific evidence on such things as infant sleep, breastfeeding, and mother-infant bonding supports these changes in newborn care practices, too.
Instead of feeling offended or frustrated by how much has changed, understand that these new medical recommendations and best practices are supported by science and are for your new grand-baby’s health and safety.
3. Respect your adult children’s parenting decisions
Remember that your grand-baby is not YOUR baby.
Although you will undoubtedly provide tons of support and wisdom to the new parents, ultimately, it’s not YOUR decision how to parent this baby.
When you make passive-aggressive comments or share articles that support YOUR viewpoint, you are disrespecting their parenting decisions.
Unless they have requested your input, be respectful and respect the parents’ wishes…even if you don’t agree.
4. Support the rules and decisions that your children have established for your grandchildren
Grandparents like to “spoil” their grandchildren and oftentimes this is totally appropriate!
However, don’t ever go against the wishes or “rules” that your adult children have established for their children… especially if they have explicitly asked you to honor them!
This not only causes conflict or resentment, but undermines the parents’ authority in the eyes of the child.
Be a helpful, supportive grandparent by showing honor and respect to your grandchildren’s parents.
5. Don’t judge or criticize your adult children’s parenting methods
There will definitely be times when you wholeheartedly disagree with your children’s parenting style or decisions. (It absolutely WILL happen!) However, keep those critical thoughts and comments to yourself.
If you are slow to offer criticism or advice, you will most likely earn the respect of your children and eventually find yourself being solicited for advice and support one day.
Respect earns respect. Show respect to your children and grandchildren and it will come back to you!
6. If your daughter or daughter-in-law is breastfeeding, educate yourself on up-to-date breastfeeding practices
Breastfeeding practices have changed.
If you breastfed your babies in the past, know that there has been significant breastfeeding research in the last 25 years that has changed the way that new mothers are taught to breastfeed.
Things may be different than you remember and that’s okay!
7. Accept that things have changed (with babies) since you had kids
It’s one thing to notice that things have changed, but quite another to ACCEPT the changes and be okay with it.
When things change from generation to generation, we tend to think… “Well, we survived just fine the way things were!”
While that may indeed be true, it is also true that with each new generation, science and research is continually teaching us more. This is especially true with pregnancy and infant care.
Instead of resisting change, embrace it, understand it, and study it. The internet makes this so much easier to do!
8. Educate yourself about up-to-date infant practices and don’t share outdated baby advice
I mentioned this before, but it’s worth repeating… don’t share outdated baby advice!
As a new grandparent, take the time to educate yourself so that you can be more supportive of your children’s parenting choices and support up-to-date, evidence-based infant practices.
If you want to be a really supportive grandparent, try asking your children for some recommended reading that supports their parenting philosophy or current newborn best practices.
For starters, check out this post that will help you to recognize common newborn myths and outdated baby advice.
9. Rules for grandparents: Respect boundaries with your children and grandchildren
Okay, this is a biggie… boundaries!
Some grandparents have a really hard time with this. Others do a great job respecting boundaries.
New parents need space to figure things out and some people just need more space than others!
Are you pushing the boundaries with your parenting or grand-parenting relationships?
Would you like some suggestions of things that might be bugging your children? (even though they may be hesitant to tell you)
More rules for grandparents
Speaking of rules for grandparents, here are 60 Things that Grandparents Should NEVER Do. Many of these things are invasive boundary violators. Don’t do them!
Even though many of these items may seem nit-picky or don’t apply to you, I recommend that all grandparents browse this list to see how they measure up!
10. Be positive and affirming in your speech
Nobody likes to be around a negative, critical person. Don’t be that person!
Even when you don’t agree with how your children are parenting, refrain from negative speech or passive aggressive comments. Instead, focus on the positive and be uplifting in your speech.
The truth is… your son or daughter really needs you right now.
It may feel like they are pushing you away, but in reality, they really want and NEED a loving, supportive parent as they welcome this new little baby. (and figure out what the heck they are doing!) 😉
Having a newborn is hard and these new parents really need your affirmation and support during this challenging postpartum season!
11. Remember that your daughter/daughter-in-law is experiencing a lot of postpartum challenges right now!
Having a new baby is extremely hard on a new mama.
You probably remember how tired and emotional you were too. If not, let me remind you of all the physical and emotional changes that postpartum women experience after having a baby… It’s HUGE!
If you’d like a refresher, please read these 10 Shocking Things About Postpartum Recovery.
In addition to these hormonal and body changes, your grand-baby’s mama is probably sleep-deprived. Hormones and lack of sleep can really do a number on a new mother’s emotional state.
If your daughter or daughter-in-law seems ungrateful or upset, DON’T take it personally. She is in survival mode!
Remembering these postpartum challenges will help you to be a more sympathetic and compassionate support to a tired, emotional and possibly cranky new mama!
Probably the most helpful of the “rules for grandparents” is cutting the new parents lots of slack and asking how you can support them during this challenging season. (The answer might be different than you expected 😉 )
12. Enjoy being a grandparent!
Last but not least… CONGRATULATIONS and ENJOY your beautiful grand-baby!
Being a grandparent is SO MUCH FUN!
I often say, “If I knew that being a grandmother was this much fun, I would have done that first!” Haha! 🙂
You will be a rock star grandparent. You got this!!!
What do you think about these rules for grandparents?
Do you have any other rules for grandparents that you would want to include? Please share in the comments!