The word "grandparent" is still associated with gray hair, spectacles and rocking chairs, even though most grandparents achieve that status before the half-century mark. Isn't it time for us to banish this misleading image of grandparents? And, while we're at it, let's debunk these grandparenting myths.
1. Most people eagerly anticipate becoming grandparents.
We've all heard about those parents who nag their children to make them grandparents, but there is another side to the coin. Some parents aren't eager to become grandparents. Sometimes it's because they have concerns about the readiness of their children to become parents, because of finances or lack of maturity. Sometimes, however, it is purely because they don't see themselves as grandparents. This may be because we associate grandparents with aging, although the average age of becoming a grandparent in the United States is a relatively youthful 47. In addition, major life transitions always carry some stress and may be resisted by those who tend to resist change.
2. Grandparents love to spoil their grandchildren.
While most grandparents enjoy giving their grandchildren gifts, many of them believe that their grandchildren are overindulged in other areas. Grandparents are often concerned that their grandchildren:
- Watch too much TV or play too many video games
- Eat too many treats
- Have too many toys
- Get everything that they ask for
In addition, many grandparents are concerned that their grandchildren are being raised in too permissive a fashion.
3. Grandparents never get to spend enough time with their grandchildren.
Some grandparents would respond that they have too much time with their grandchildren. Most of these are grandparents who have taken on child-rearing or child-care responsibilities out of necessity. Still, many grandparents in all situations treasure their time alone or with a spouse. In one survey of grandparents done in Northern Ireland, 39% agreed with the statement, "Now my own children have grown up I want a life that is free from too many family duties."
4. The bond between grandparents and grandchildren is natural and spontaneous.
Like most things that are worth having, good relationships with grandchildren require some work. While many grandparents report bonding almost instantaneously with their newborn grandchildren, some confess that the relationship was rocky at first, with the infant grandchildren crying and the grandparents feeling uncertain. Long-distance grandparents often find that they have to re-establish their relationship each time that they visit, and grandparents of teenagers often report that maintaining a relationship is hard work due to the busy schedules of their grandchildren and the demands of their peer relationships.
5. Grandparents shouldn't offer advice.
Grandparenting books often tell grandparents not to offer advice unless it's asked for, and that is generally good counsel. Still, 80% of grandparents say that they feel "very comfortable" or "somewhat comfortable" offering child-rearing advice to their children and 95% are comfortable giving advice to their grandchildren, according to AARP's Grandparent Survey. In the same survey 74% of the grandparents reported that the parents of their grandchildren asked for advice about the grandchildren at least once a year.