Becoming a grandparent is an exciting new role for you to take on – one which involves having fun and making memories with your new grandchild or grandchildren, but without all the responsibility of parenthood that you experienced the first time around.
There are many things you can do to support your son or daughter as they become first time parents, remaining mindful that the new baby is theirs and respectful of their parenting decisions. However, if you ever have any serious concerns about your grandchild’s health, safety or welfare, you do have a responsibility to report this to ensure the family receives the necessary support.
How you can help
In the early days after the baby is born, think about what practical help you can offer – support with washing, ironing, shopping, meal preparation, collecting other children from school or nursery, even some gardening will all be appreciated. Try to balance this with giving the new parents the time and space to bond with their new baby.
Offer to babysit regularly – as a new parent, the chance to go for a short walk, to share a meal with your partner, or even to just catch a few hours’ extra sleep, is a really valuable gift.
Bonding with your grandchild
Actively playing with your grandchild will help you to build a lasting and loving relationship. Singing songs and nursery rhymes, reading stories and playing games will be fun for both of you, and will have a longer-term positive impact than simply buying gifts. As your grandchild gets older, why not take them swimming, to playgroups or playgrounds or even just for a walk in the woods? Your local children’s centre will have a whole programme of groups you can join, and many libraries run story times for toddlers and pre-schoolers.
Things to avoid
- Make sure you don’t show any favouritism if you have more than one grandchild.
- Watch out for phrases like ‘Well we never did it like that…’ or ‘Don’t take any notice of that advice…’ or ‘It never did you any harm…’ Your child, the parent, has to find their own way, and will want to do the best for their child. These kinds of comments will leave them feeling undermined.
This film highlights all the positive aspects of being a grandparent:
Grandparents as childcare providers
Childcare in the UK is expensive, so it’s no surprise that one in three working mothers and one in four working families asks their parents to support them with childcare.
Did you know though, that if you’re still of working age, you may qualify for Class 3 National Insurance credits if you look after children under the age of 12? This can top up your retirement income. Find out more here.
Divorce and separation
Inevitably not all families live happy ever after, and separation or divorce is a tough experience for children to go through, whether the split is amicable or not. Children may find it hard to talk through what they’re feeling and experiencing with their parents for fear of making things worse or being a burden to them. In this situation, a grandparent can be the first person they turn to, and the best thing you can do is to listen and offer your unconditional love. While you may not be able to wave a magic wand to make things right, you can help them feel safe and supported.
NHS Choices has advice on talking to children and offering emotional support, and National Family Mediation provides guidance and advice for grandparents. Complete the referral form, or call 0300 4000 636.
Just as with divorce or separation, if a child has to cope with a bereavement in the family, the support, love and understanding that a grandparent can offer are invaluable. The links below signpost you to organisations which will not only help you to provide effective support to your grandchildren, but will support you if you’re grieving too.
- Child Bereavement UK Helpline: 0800 028 8840 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. The charity also has a number of information sheets for adults and children dealing with different aspects of bereavement
- Hope Again Helpline: 0808 808 1677 Monday to Friday, 9.30am to 5pm
- Winston’s Wish Helpline: 0808 802 0021 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
- Childhood Bereavement Network
- NHS Choices