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Parenting: How grandparents can help

Grandparents can play a special part in a child's life. But for parents it can be a balancing act to keep them involved without feeling as if they are taking charge of raising the child.

Your baby's grandparents can be valuable influences in your child's life. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, grandparents can be an important source of nurturing and guidance for a little one. Among other things, grandparents can share family history and help teach family values.

Encouraging and supporting a relationship between your child and his or her grandparents can be a good thing for the whole family.

Build a positive relationship

Grandparents may want to spend plenty of time with your new child. That can be a good thing. But they can overstay their welcome. And they may offer parenting advice or criticism that causes tension.

You can take steps to ensure that grandparents remain active in your child's life without overstepping their bounds. These tips may help:

Be specific. Give grandparents some concrete ways they can help. For example, ask if they could come and stay with you for a short time after the baby is born. This will give you time to regain your strength.

If they stay longer than you'd like, gently let them know that you need some time together as a family. Then discuss a date for their return home.

Stay open-minded. Your parents raised children of their own. So they can be a good source of information. If they offer advice that makes sense to you, keep it in mind. But don't feel like you must follow advice you don't agree with.

You might say something such as, "Thank you for your suggestion. I know you're trying to help."

If the advice differs from the advice of your baby's doctor, point that out. Times may have changed since your child's grandparents were raising children. It can be helpful to assure them that you are doing what's best for your baby.

Talk things out. Speak openly with your baby's grandparents. If problems arise, try to work them out as soon as you can.

Stay connected

When grandparents don't live nearby, they may not see your children often. Sending photos or videos of your child may help them stay in touch. As children get older, grandparents may be able to make videos of themselves to share too.

Respect limits

As you work to get grandparents to respect your boundaries, remember to respect theirs. They may be reluctant to become involved when a new baby arrives. And they might need you to invite them for a visit or wait for you to ask for their advice.

No matter how involved the grandparents are, don't expect them to jump every time you need something. Use care not to ask them for more help than they are willing or able to provide.

Reviewed 12/16/2021

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