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Five Things for Grandparents to Consider Before Offering Advice

Dianna Graveman |13, October 2011


Five Things for Grandparents to Consider Before Offering Advice

Congratulations! You're a grandparent.

Your daughter or son is now a parent, a role you have cherished since your own little bundle came into the world. You worked hard over the years to be the best caregiver you could be. You researched best parenting practices and stayed abreast of new developments in medicine, safety, nutrition, and education for young children and teens. You were well-informed and capable. You were-and are-a good parent.

So why wouldn't the new parents want to take advantage of all that wonderful experience? After all, you raised your own children, and they turned out great. Imagine how much help you will be with your new grandchild!

Prepare yourself: Your advice may not always be welcome. Instead, you may feel it is often disregarded or ignored. Your suggestions may even be perceived by the new parents as criticism of their own parenting skills.

The next time you are tempted to offer advice, consider the following:

1. The new parents need to build confidence.

Remember the days right after your first child was born? They were exciting, but a little scary. You wanted to do everything right. Was your child gaining enough weight? Was the pacifier going to give him an overbite? Should she learn to walk barefoot or in shoes? Should you breastfeed or not? When should you begin to potty train? A few decades ago, experts were split on many of these issues. Ultimately, you had to make your own decisions and hope they were good ones. It took time to build confidence. Unsolicited advice muddied the waters and just made it more difficult. Today's parents have to build confidence in their parenting skills, too. They have to learn to trust their own decisions, just like you did.

2. Times have changed, and so have the experts.

Sure, you did a lot of reading and research when your kids were little. Forget all that. Today's experts say babies should not sleep on their stomachs, even though your own pediatrician may have insisted on it. Remember the bumper pad and baby swing? Now they are considered risky for sleeping infants. Don't feel guilty; you followed the best advice of the time. But current research has shown there may be better and safer ways to do things.

3. The new parents may decide to raise their child differently than you raised yours.

In some ways, today's parents are more relaxed than their predecessors. Many are waiting longer to begin potty training. (Anywhere between 18 months and three years is okay.) Children are often encouraged to participate in decisions about food and clothing choices. Both parents may decide to work outside the home, or your grandchild might have a stay-at-home dad. Don't take offense if your child makes different parenting choices than you did. It doesn't mean he or she thinks you didn't do a great job. You just went about it another way.

4. Your advice will be most welcome when sought, not offered.

Sooner or later, your grandchild's parents will want a second opinion from someone they trust. If you've provided loving support without meddling, that someone will likely be you. Of course, if you are ever seriously concerned about your grandchild's well being or safety, speak up. But remember to proceed cautiously and offer unsolicited advice only in the case of a legitimate concern. And don't forget to suggest the new parents consult each other about important child-rearing decisions before consulting you.

5. Relax, and pat yourself on the back!

You raised a great kid. You worked hard and taught your child well. Trust him or her to make good, informed decisions for your grandchild, while you get to sit back and relish the joys of simply being a grandparent. Congratulations! You've earned it.

Dianna Graveman is a St. Louis writer, editor, educator, and mother of three. Her work has appeared in many print and online publications. Visit her website at or her blog at

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GeriGreene Oct 13, 2011 03:26:58 PM ET

Number 3 Grand just made her arrival. After Baby 2, the father person changed. The differences between Papa One and Papa Two are throwing me off a bit as Father One admitted he knew little and Father Two thinks he knows it all. It has been 'interesting' to see how different families act in the new baby situation. From the first day at the hospital, people from his side felt they could drop by at any time. Even if the door was closed, it didn't apply to that visitor or another who just had to stop even before visiting hours, because she was in the area. The hospital said they have experienced everything from Open Door policy to notifying family in advance that no one is to visit during the first 4 days, so they can welcome the baby and rest at their own schedule. I am aware that everyone is excited, but the Pass-the-Baby routine without regard to hand washing was excruciating to watch, as Papa Two did not notice. It was difficult to watch, and difficult to keep my thoughts to myself as I saw my daughter overwhelmed by the onslaught of 5 of his family coming in to roost without regard to how tired she was from the birthing and Proud Papa not setting any limits for his family visit. This being his first, he was thrilled to share with his family, but not aware how much it takes to not only give birth but "entertain" all those who show up, regardless of their good intentions. This is an issue I doubt many couples address in advance. I hope that some do as those first weeks require a lot of energy between nap times. As one of the nurses put it, "Ask your guests to wait until the week or two after you arrive home, and to bring a casserole!" "Or, bring a book and read to any older siblings so they don't feel left out by all the attention paid to the new arrival."

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Angela Oct 13, 2011 03:11:28 PM ET

Great article. I'll definitely keep this in mind and pass the advice onto other grandparents.

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