thread: Grandparents role

  1. #1
    myboys Guest

    Grandparents role

    A Grandparent's Role in the Family

    Family life taps our deepest emotions. It's not surprising, then, that conflicts can arise as tiny but very demanding infants join the family circle. After all, we all have egos, opinions, values and goals of our own. We all want a sense of belonging, to be treated well, to get our share of attention. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, in-laws and older siblings must adjust to new roles when a child joins the family.

    As grandparents we may feel some loss as our position in our family changes. As much as we welcome our new grandchildren, we find ourselves seeing and talking with our own children less when they become parents. They now have major and very distracting responsibilities. In-laws and other grandparents are in the mix, and often step-grandparents and step-parents add to the family circle. Adding to sometimes difficult moments, ex-spouses find themselves together again, sharing time with grandchildren.

    We all have to fit in, to get along if possible. Sometimes it's a struggle. No wonder tensions arise in even the calmest and closest families.

    Grandparents may also feel confused about their roles. We are no longer in charge. We have to step back, let our children make the decisions, for themselves and for our grandchildren. Our own wishes may have to be put aside at times.

    And we are still fathers and mothers ourselves. Kathryn and Alan Zullo, authors of "The Nanas and the Papas, a Boomers' Guide to Grandparenting," remind us that "though we know we must let go of the reins to our adult children, they are still our children. Forever. It doesn't matter how old any of us are."

    Encourage, Support, and Bite Your Tongue

    We can, and should, continue to nurture our children. We can be a comfort, a friendly ear for them. They are under great stress at times. They are now breadwinners and very busy parents. We can encourage and support them. We may be able to help them. And sometimes they need our kind and reassuring attention.

    On the other hand, you may disagree with your children's approach to parenting. Or when you visit, you may want more time with your grandchildren. You may think your grandchildren are spoiled. It's tempting in these circumstances to pull rank and start giving directions again. If we do, we wear out our welcome very quickly!

    Dr. Lillian Carson, a psychotherapist and author of "The Essential Grandparent", suggests that, "We must earn the right to voice our opinion." We do this, she says, "by establishing a supportive relationship with praise, encouragement and assistance."

    Dr. Carson also reminds us that many new parents want to raise their children in ways that are very different from their own childhood experiences. They have their own ideas. They know first-hand the mistakes we made as parents. She notes, "You can see why it's risky to jump in with your advice." Our children, plain and simply, may not want too much advice from us!

    If we see a threat to our grandchild's safety, of course we must speak up. At times our advice is welcome. But we may have to remind ourselves from time to time that we've had our turn!

    When Clashes Occur

    Arthur Kornhaber, M.D., a child and family therapist and author of "The Grandparenting Guide, The Definitive Guide to Coping with the Challenges of Modern Grandparenting", notes the kinds of clashes that can arise between grandparents and parents. He describes them as conflicts around "boundary areas". A boundary conflict can occur when either the grandparents or parents, or both, fail to meet their expectations for each other. These conflicts might include disagreements about methods of childrearing or the degree of grandparent involvement in the grandchild's life. Some grandparents might lack respect for their own child's role as a parent. In some cases, parents may assume that their own parents should be willing to drop everything to take care of their grandchildren.

    Dr. Kornhaber reminds grandparents that "it takes a great deal of flexibility and maturity" to resolve problems. And he places the burden on grandparents to be the problem solvers. He urges grandparents to:

    Try to work problems out immediately.

    Communicate with family members and listen carefully.

    Remember that parents and grandparents owe it to the children involved to do whatever it takes to resolve their difficulties.
    We may, however, sometimes expect too much of ourselves. Jealousy of the other set of grandparents is a common and understandable reaction. The "other" grandparents may live next door to your grandchildren, be able to be more involved, or have more money for fabulous gifts. It is most important, Dr. Carson suggests, to "recognize these reactions in yourself." You don't need to bury your feelings of jealousy. Just don't act on them! If possible, you can befriend these grandparents and share time with grandchildren and in the purchase of gifts.

    The other grandparents may be in a religious group with quite different beliefs from yours. They may speak more comfortably in another language. Once again, it's up to us grandparents to make sure that we take the steps to assure that our family relationships are as harmonious and gracious as possible. Our children certainly want and expect this from us.

    We are the Role Models

    As part of the older generation, we are the role models. We are the bearers of our family's history and values. We can light the way for our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren by offering loving and supportive parenting. Selma Wassermann, author of the "The Long Distance Grandparent", suggests that we always keep the lines of communication open. She states that, "When problems can be dealt with in loving and non-defensive ways, when all parties can appreciate how it feels to be in the other person's shoes, we have a much better chance of a happy resolution."

    It helps to remember that, as grandparents, we are often in a great position. We can lavish love and attention on these wondrous creatures without getting bogged down in the duties of parenthood. Yes, we worry about our grandchildren. They also can exhaust us. Most of the time, however, we can be caring companions, thrilled and honored to spend time with our grandchildren. And we can tighten the bonds of our families by sharing, with our own children, the joy we take in their children.

    Giving Gifts to Your Grandchildren
    Grandparents have a well-deserved reputation for spoiling their grandchildren. As a group, we spend very generously on gifts for them. Of course, we have to stay within our budgets. That can be tough when we would love to give our grandchildren just about everything they want! Often the most difficult task is deciding what gift to give. The choices available are overwhelming.

    Start with Mom and Dad
    It's always best to consult with the parents. They are likely to have great suggestions. They can also tell you what not to buy. They may have safety concerns about particular gifts or wish to give certain presents themselves. They also know what your grandkids' current interests and needs are. If the parents are on a tight budget, you could help them by buying gifts such as clothing or other essential items.

    Gifts Should Suit the Child
    It's important to choose gifts that suit not only your grandchildren's interests, but their age and skill levels as well. Your grandchildren probably won't use a gift that's too advanced - or too simple - for them.

    Grandchildren cherish gifts chosen with thought and care. Even young children have very distinct interests and desires. It's most important to match the gift to the grandchild. Some boys just don't like football. Some girls hate dresses.

    If you buy a certain gift to encourage a particular hobby or to help develop an academic or athletic skill, share that information with your grandchildren. They'll appreciate knowing that you took the time to think about your gift.

    Financial Gifts
    Some youngsters seem to have everything. The last thing they need is another toy. If that is true in your grandchildren's case, you may wish to direct some money to a college fund or other savings method. Kathryn and Allan Zullo, in 'The Nanas and the Papas, A Boomers' Guide to Grandparenting,' encourage grandparents to contribute financial gifts to their grandchildren. Such gifts can take pressure off the parents in planning for the education and financial security of their children when they are older. The Zullos devote a chapter to "Sharing Your Financial Assets." Using Ben Franklin's philosophy of pennies saved turning into dollars, Grandpa Pete gave his grandson a savings bond for each gift occasion. When Evan turned 18, those bonds paid for a used car.

    Start Traditions
    Perhaps you would like to start a tradition that helps you to narrow your range of choices. This approach can still allow you to honor the special interests and personality of each child.

    Each year Grandma Jane gives each of her grandchildren books for their birthdays. She makes sure that she knows each child's current enthusiasms and finds books for the appropriate age level. She also checks with the parents to make sure the children don't already have the books.

    For Katie's birthday every year, Gramps and Grammy K gave granddaughter Katie one pearl. When she turned 21, they had the pearls strung into a beautiful necklace. Talk about giving a lifetime memory to a grandchild! It will probably become a treasured family heirloom.

    If you like arts and crafts, you can make gifts specially suited to each child. If you sew, you may have granddaughters who will jump with joy if you make dolls' clothes. If you paint or draw, you can create a canvas that will be perfect for your grandkids' bedroom. With your talents, the sky's the limit!

    Children have a strong interest in knowing what their parents were like as children. You could pass on a special family keepsake - handing down a book or toy that belonged to your grandchildren's parent. Make sure older toys are safe. Some old toys are not. The regulations on toys made today are much stricter than they were two and three decades ago.

    Consider Safety
    Whatever gifts you choose, they must be safe. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has information on products for young children that are recalled for safety reasons. The recalls include toys. The American Academy of Pediatrics also has good information on choosing safe gifts. The parents of your grandchildren are also probably very tuned in to safety issues.

    A Gift of You
    Special time spent with grandchildren can be the most prized of gifts. You can plan an outing to the park, the zoo, their favorite restaurant. You can go with them to the store where you bought them a gift certificate, so that you can pick something out together. Each year Granddad Mike lets his teenaged grandkids pick a sporting event they want to see and he takes them. Not only are these gifts to the grandchildren, but they help you cement your relationship with them. They are gifts for everyone to enjoy!

    Your Budget
    If your grandchild asks you for a computer and it's over your budget, you could contribute, with several others, toward its purchase. Or you could buy some software. Be strong if you feel pressured to buy gifts you can't afford! Though we hate to disappoint our grandchildren or be outdone by other grandparents, it's important for our families that we keep our finances in good order. Your grandchildren will understand.

    You may wonder what kinds of gifts other grandparents give to their grandchildren.
    When AARP talked with grandparents, we found that most buy clothing, books, fun foods, toys, CDs or tapes, videos or DVDs, jewelry, magazines or subscriptions, video games, other electronic devices, and computers or software. Maybe you will get an idea from the selections of gifts these grandparents made.

    Other gift choices might be tickets to a puppet show or play. You could buy your grandchildren lessons in ballet, music, or karate.

    Whatever you choose to give your grandchildren for gifts - expensive or not - they'll know it came with all the love you could possibly wrap up with it.

  2. #2
    *Rachel* Guest

    Some great advice from 'MyBoys' there, it's good to see stuff like this around, 'coz sometimes you forget how others relate to you and your new little one - there's a great article Here on the main site about how grandparents feel about being....well....grandparents LOL!