Congratulations, you're going to be a grandparent

Congratulations, you're going to be a grandparent

Janine Gard is a diploma-qualified birth educator and founder of Bellies to Babies. She has taught more than 2900 parents to feel confident, informed, supported and prepared. This week Janine gives advice for new grandparents.

It’s a big deal – and an event you may have been anticipating for a long time or one that’s very unexpected, either way, it’s a big transition with many challenges as well as joy.

Here are my top tips to help you avoid common “new grandparent” pitfalls and handle your new role with love, peace and excitement.

Right from the get-go, many expecting parents experience tension or a feeling of being torn between several sets of grandparents forcefully asserting their wishes. It’s a recipe for stress that soon-to-be parents definitely don’t need. As much as you can, stay positive, be flexible and go with the flow. Focus on supporting them, rather than telling them what you want – they’ll appreciate it and, it’s not all about you.

Don’t: go on a baby shopping spree.

While you are downright ecstatic about your new grandbaby on the way and are absolutely well-meaning, you’ll want to first check in with the parents before buying a bunch of baby gear and clothes. Some expectant parents welcome all gifts, and others would prefer to make the most of the choices about clothing, toys, and gear themselves. And there may be other factors they’re weighing, like an impending move or limited space. Some may prefer a “less is more” approach and don’t want their homes filled with heaps of baby gear, at least not right away, and consider financial help or a small amount to start a savings account for the baby.

Do: brush up on the latest safety and newborn care recommendations.

Yes, it’s true, you raised at least one child who turned out fine following the parenting guidelines you had back in the day, but new research has uncovered a lot of valuable, life-saving data that should not be ignored (like how babies should always be placed on their backs to sleep and no pillows, blankets or stuffed animals should ever be placed in a baby’s sleeping space). Important links and support are at the end of this article.

Don’t: assume you’ll be invited to the hospital/home.

Some new parents prefer to spend the first couple days after their baby is born on their own — with no visitors, not even grandparents — and with the current new traffic light system, this may not be possible either. Don’t take anything personally. Aside from the fact that Mum is recovering from the labour and birth, possibly trying to figure out breastfeeding and most likely half-nude most of the time, this is also just an incredibly sacred and special time for the new parents to bond with their baby.

Do: tell them you like the name. No matter what – no exceptions.

Maybe you were hoping they’d choose a family name or maybe you think traditional names are boring. Whatever it is, keep it to yourself. If and when your child tells you what they plan to name their baby (or have named their baby) the only response is: “I LOVE it! What a perfect name.” The end. PERIOD!

Do: respect boundaries.

No matter how many kids you raised or how they turned out, your adult child and his or her partner are now in charge of the childrearing. Be cautious about offering opinions or advice unless asked directly. And even then, tread lightly and express yourself gently.

It’s all about respecting boundaries. Everyone parents differently, and it’s your child’s turn to learn what works for them. It’s hard to keep your lips zipped when you hear things you disagree with, perhaps from what kind of birth the parents are planning to what kind of childcare they’re considering. But you need to. If you try to intervene with a contrary opinion, you’re setting yourself up as an adversary and over time, you’ll strain your relationship with the new parents and your grandchildren.

Do: things their way.

If there were only one way to change a nappy, swaddle, feed, bathe, burp or heck, just raise a baby, we’d all be doing it “right”. The reality is, there are many ways to care for newborns and you’ll want to keep your opinions and advice to yourself unless explicitly asked (and even then, tread lightly, as your child is more than likely looking for support and reassurance instead of criticism). You’re used to being the one in charge, but this time it’s your child’s turn. That can be disconcerting, but you may find this role reversal refreshing as well. After all, with authority comes responsibility. Now it’s your turn to do what you’re told – and not worry about whether it’s the best way or not.

Don’t: take things personally.

It might have been a long time ago for you, but welcoming a new child into the world is a monumental life change — and when you add in Mum’s fluctuating hormones and physical recovery from the birth — some things might get said. It’s best not to assume any ill-intent and give the new parents the benefit of the doubt that they love and respect you, but are struggling through this new adjustment. Keep the lines of communication open and don’t hold a grudge.

Do: give new parents a break.

It’s easy to forget how overwhelming it is to be a new parent and how hard it can be to accomplish the basics. This is where you can step in to save the day and what a new parent really wants help with is household chores, meal prep, grocery shopping and the like.

During visits, offer to take care of your grandbaby while the parents nap or get other things done. Ask if you can help by running errands, making meals, or cleaning up. If other family members. friends or colleagues are dropping by, offer to help field phone calls or emails to minimise and schedule visits.

Some new parents are reluctant to ask grandparents to help, so you may get better results if you just jump in and do what’s needed, like filling the dishwasher or making sandwiches. But if you detect resentment afterward, don’t do it again – not everyone appreciates unsolicited help. Forgive the new parents for being overwhelmed and self-absorbed – it’s natural. Your child probably won’t have time for the things you used to do together, and your conversations will likely be all about the baby, at least for a while.

If you expect this and practice patience, you’re less likely to become hurt or resentful. And you can be pleasantly surprised when the new parents emerge from the fog of sleep deprivation and become your thoughtful loved ones again.

Do: offer reassurance.

Remember, your children and their partners are feeling insecure to begin with – parenthood is hard. They don’t need you to point them out. But they do need reassurance that they’re doing a good job, and support for making a difficult decision.

Do: know that you are loved and appreciated.

Through the good and the bad, know that your child has invited you to be a part of these special memories for a reason. Even if you don’t see eye-to-eye on everything and there are some sticky moments, they couldn’t do this without you and love you very much.

Support services you may find helpful:




● – Grandparents raising grandchildren






● Hawke’s Bay Baby Massage Classes, Bellies to Babies Antenatal & Postnatal Classes,
2087 Pakowhai Rd, Hawke’s Bay, 022 637 0624,

Medical disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only and may not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians.

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