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FAQs for Stepgrandparents About Stepgrandchildren

Avoiding Favoritism and Other Sticky Wickets

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Stepgrandparenting may be easier when stepgrandchildren are young.

Stepgrandparents say bonding is easier with younger children, but can be accomplished at any age.

Photo © Peter Augustin / Getty

Our guest stepgrandparents respond to some frequently asked questions relating to stepgrandchildren.

If you have both biological grandchildren and stepgrandchildren, do you feel that your stepgrandchildren have an equal place in your heart with your biological grandchildren?

  • Jody: Absolutely!
  • Lyn: No – not equal; then again my biological grandchildren don’t necessarily have an equal place in my heart; I love them all dearly and could never choose if forced, yet their place in my heart is different, just as they are different. As far as stepgrandchildren, as much as I try not to show that there is a difference, I have to be honest and say it is different.
  • Trisha: I don't have biological grandchildren. I have two adult daughters – mine – and neither of them has any interest in having babies yet. They tell me now that the pressure is off, but I’m sure I never pressured them!

Do you try to avoid favoritism and treat all your grandchildren equally in terms of gifts and outings?

  • Jody: Absolutely, although differences in their interests and values take precedence over our interests or intentions.
  • Marilyn: All the nine grandchildren with whom I am in contact get my attention and gifts according to their needs and my time and attention. I don't play favorites. I like to take the children shopping for their gifts rather than buying from a list or trying to guess what they might like. We have great times shopping with the children, and Poppi is great at carrying the bags when he is along. I don't really keep score dollarwise, and I do not try to even it out per family. We have bought some of our grandchildren bikes, while other parents wanted to buy them themselves. We have taken two of the families to Florida and Disney World. Some of the parents are more controlling than others, and some have greater financial resources than others. I want to buy what is fun for me to buy and take my grandchildren places that are fun for me to go with them. Some of the parents are less agreeable to let us choose the venue than others.

What do your stepgrandchildren call you? Is it a different name from what your biological grandchildren call you? How did you arrive at your grandparent name?

  • Jody: My son’s children will know us as Grandpa and Bubbe, which is the Jewish equivalent of grandma and what my children called my mother. My daughter’s stepchildren have their own grandmother and a somewhat difficult mother and call us by our first names. This makes their mother happy and is fine with us. My husband is Grandpa to all his biological and other stepgrandchildren, but since they have or have had grandmothers, I am called by my first name.
  • Lyn: It’s rather peculiar – my grandchildren all call me grandma; some of the stepgrandchildren call me Grandma Lyn (to differentiate from their other grandma), some call me Nana Lyn (my husband is Italian) and a couple just call me Lyn (they’re older and knew me before I married their grandpa).
  • Trisha: My grandsons call me “G-ma.”
  • Marilyn: I asked to be called Grandmere, the French word for Grandmother, rather than Grandma, as the children have other grandmothers. Mare is a pet name I was given by my father, so as the children get older, it is my hope that they can call me Mare. My husband is called Poppi by choice as the children all have two other grandpas. His children have used his first name after Grandpa, but my children have encouraged their children to call him Poppi.

Research shows that the younger stepgrandchildren are at the time the relationship is established, the better chance they have of building a strong relationship with their stepgrandparents. Have you found this to be true?

  • Jody: I don’t know from personal experience as I have had stepgrandchildren for only a short time. However, I suspect that it’s true, but only as far as the children’s parents allow the relationship to develop. My husband and I will not distinguish between our biological and stepgrandchildren, except as their interests and personalities differ. I’m sure we will be closer to some than to others, but that will have more to do with proximity and personality (as well as parental influence) then anything else.
  • Lyn: Yes. My stepgrandson who is 2-1/2 and has been part of our family for over a year now has bonded with me as if he were biological.
  • Trisha: I believe the “earlier the more bonding” thing is absolutely true. And my three younger grandchildren will never remember life before G-ma because the oldest was only 3 when I married his grandfather.

If you have succeeded in building a good relationship with your stepgrandchildren, what factors do you think were key?

  • Jody: We encourage them and share in their pride of accomplishment. We’ve gone to watch their sporting or musical events, taken them to shows and movies, shared holidays and important life milestones. We do for them and with them. Showing respect and love is what is primarily important.
  • Lyn: I do my best to treat them equally, take the time to really get to know them and their interests, and spend time with them – especially one on one.
  • Marilyn: I have a lovely relationship with all my grandchildren except two, and I have been excluded from their lives by their parent's choice. The good relationships are a result of doing things with the children from apple-picking to helping with puzzles and homework, listening to their stories and being authentic with them. Too often grandparents ignore children or talk at them rather than with them. Having regular contact is also important; even though they live in other cities, we visit several times a year.

Is there anything else that contributes to being a good stepgrandparent?

  • Jody: Neither my husband nor I interfere with the way our biological children or stepchildren raise their children or live their lives. We offer our opinions if asked, but we offer opinions as such and respect our children and stepchildren’s rights.

Our guest stepgrandparents contributed via email. Thanks to:

  • Jody Prince*, an educator

*not her real name

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