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Life as a grandparent

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 the responsibility of parenthood that you experienced the first time around.

There are many things you can do to support the ‘new’ parents remaining mindful that the new baby is theirs and being respectful of their parenting decisions.

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 have a meal 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 may have groups you can join and many libraries run story times for toddlers and pre-schoolers.

Grandparent with grandchildren in the kitchen

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 grandchild’s parent has to find their own way, and will want to do the best for their child. These kinds of comments may leave them feeling undermined.

This film highlights all the positive aspects of being a grandparent:

This video was not produced by Health for Under 5’s and may contain adverts.

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.

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. Find out more here.

Divorce and separation

Divorce and separation can be a difficult and emotional experience for the whole family, including the grandparents. Grandparents may feel pulled to take sides, but it’s important to listen and support your grandchild at all times.

You can find advice on talking to children and offering emotional support on the NHS website. National Family Mediation also provides guidance and advice for grandparents.

Useful links

Page last reviewed: 09-11-2020

Next review due: 09-11-2023