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What New Grandparents Need to Know

Ten Suggestions for Grandparents-to-be

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grandmother grandfather grandbaby

Grandparents enjoy their new grandchild.

Photo © Sam Edwards | OJO Images | Getty

Your career as a grandparent begins even before your grandchild is born. From the moment when you get the good news, your actions and reactions matter. These ten suggestions for new grandparents will earn you the gratitude of the expectant parents and pave the way for a great relationship with your grandchild. Just be aware -- you'll be in a period of adjustment as well.

Smile when you get the news. When the expectant parents share the good news with you, act pleased, even if you are concerned about issues such as finances. Be sure to inquire before telling anyone else, and let the parents be the ones to tell close friends and relatives. If the couple would like to wait a bit before announcing the news to others, respect their wishes and don’t tell their secret.

Let them do it their way. The expectant parents may choose a home birth when you would have opted for a hospital, or may decide not to have visitors in the hospital. No matter how you feel about their choices, don’t question them. Your future relationship with your child and your grandchild may depend upon your being supportive of their decisions. Your time to bond with your grandchild will come.

Emphasize the positive. Tell funny and sweet stories about your experiences with your own babies. Stories about his or her own babyhood will probably especially interest the expectant parent. Never tell horror stories about your birthing experiences.

Be understanding of the mother-to-be. Expectant mothers are often very centered on what is happening with their bodies and their lives. If your daughter or daughter-in-law seems uninterested in your activities and thoughts, accept that this is a natural stage. She will regain her interest in the wider world some time after she gives birth. After the birth, be alert for signs of post-partum depression or any persistent sadness.

Go easy on the shopping. Buying for the baby is fun, but gift-giving has its pitfalls. Pick up a few minor things and gauge the reaction. Some expectant parents welcome all contributions; others would prefer to make most of the choices about clothing and equipment themselves. If there is going to be a baby shower, work with the parents to make it fun and successful.

Hold off on major decisions. Don’t make dramatic changes in your own life in anticipation of being a grandparent. Don’t quit your job or plan to move until you see how much you are going to be needed and wanted in your grandchild’s life. Don't agree to provide full-time child care without considering the decision carefully.

Do help out, but don’t overdo it. Especially at the end of the pregnancy and right after the birth, the new parents will need some assistance, but don’t do too much. The mother or father who comes for a visit and insists on working the whole time is sending a message to the expectant parents that they can’t adequately take care of their own needs.

Put doubts about the spouse on hold. If you have misgivings about your son or daughter’s mate, try to overcome them. That person is going to be your grandchild’s parent. Give the spouse a chance to prove his or her worthiness in this new role.

Be prepared to share. Remember that in most families there is another set of grandparents (and sometimes two or three sets!). If you’ve not been sociable with the other family, you might want to plan a social occasion to get to know them better before the new baby arrives. Use diplomacy in handling possible conflicts over grandparent names. Communicate with the other grandparents to coordinate visits. A little planning and discussion before the birth will keep the new parents from being overrun with grandparents immediately after the birth.

Make peace with your ex. If you are divorced from your child’s father or mother, you may need to prepare to share grandparenting honors with your ex. This potentially ticklish situation can go smoothly if you plan ahead and prepare yourself mentally. You will probably have to be in each other’s presence upon occasions such as the grandchild’s birthday, so why not start by being cordial before the birth? The same goes for other blended family issues.

See also What Not to Say to Expectant Mothers.

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