As grandparents, many women over 60 are embracing a new role in life. Seeing our children grow up to have children of their own is one of life’s great joys and privileges, and it reminds us of how life is a circle, with so many stages and cycles. The young become the old, and “The Child is father of the Man,” as William Wordsworth wrote.
For women our age, it might have been a while since our own grandparents have been part of our lives. Today’s women over 60 are looking for new ways to fulfill the role of grandparents by providing the right blend of support and independence and helping our grandkids grow up with a positive, influential family presence around them.
What does it take to be a successful grandparent in today’s world? Here are a few ideas. I would also love to hear your ideas. Please add your thoughts in the comments section at the end of the article.
The best grandparents tend to be full of patience – for their grandchildren as well as for their grandchildren’s mom and dad. Even if your grandchildren are boisterous or sometimes misbehave, the best grandparents know that it’s all part of growing up.
Your grandchildren will trust you more if they don’t see or hear you overreacting to stressful situations.
If you struggle with patience, you can read some self-help books on practicing and cultivating patience.
The most successful grandparents tend to be generous – not necessarily in terms of buying toys, gifts, and offering financial generosity, but generous with their time, generous with their hospitality and generous with advice (when asked).
We all know it’s difficult not to spoil our grandkids rotten when we can afford to. It obviously makes us happy to see them happy. Try to resist the urge to buy your grandchildren too many toys. Milestones like birthdays, school accomplishments, and holidays are of course a great way to offer gifts.
Your grandchildren will remember more the quality time they spent with you than the numerous toys they received from you over the years.
The best grandparents are a rock-solid foundation of love in a child’s life. Children need to know that no matter what might be going on in their lives, no matter what disappointments they might encounter at school or on the street, they are always safe and loved at grandma’s house.
Listening to your grandchildren without any judgment will make them feel heard and seen. Let them know that they can talk to you about anything and that you are always there to listen and love them no matter what.
Successful grandparents learn once again how to see the world through a child’s eyes. This is a surprising and wonderful privilege of being a grandparent – we get to interact with our grandchildren and live life, for a little while, with their sense of time and their capacity for wonder.
We, of course, carry our wealth of knowledge and experiences that we have accumulated over the years, but it’s always refreshing to learn something new and to open up to modern ways of thinking and living.
The best grandparents know how to listen. Just being there to listen to your grandchildren’s stories and encourage their enthusiasm is a wonderful gift to give.
Life is busy, and chances are, your grandchildren have busy parents who work full-time jobs to provide for their family. You have more time now in your retirement to slow down and sit with your grandkids, in person or virtually. They may not always make any sense and they may have far-fetched ideas and stories, but it’s important that they feel listened to and acknowledged.
“Detachment” doesn’t mean that you don’t care about your grandchildren – it means you know how to maintain a healthy distance without meddling or constantly injecting your own views.
Even if your own (grown) son or daughter isn’t doing everything “the right way” or “the normal way” in raising your grandkids, even if they follow different traditions or aren’t raising your grandkids in the same church or faith as you, the best grandparents know how to let things be and allow your grown children to chart their own course as parents.
Remember when you were just starting out as a new parent. Chances are you wanted to trust your instincts, and the base of those instincts is the fact that you wanted the best for your children. The same goes for every new parent. Trust that they are doing a great job at raising their children even if it is different than how you would do it.
Also, many family squabbles happen because of meddling grandparents. You may even be dismissed or asked to stay away completely if you can’t respect the parents and the boundaries that they have set for family members.
Being a grandparent isn’t always about buying gifts or hosting dinners or taking your grandchildren on special vacations or anything like that. Aside from all of the fun things to do together with your grandchildren (which are wonderful), some of the best gifts you can offer your grandchildren are just the gifts of your time and your presence. Children learn a great deal just from being in the same room with you, watching how you prepare a meal, listening to you sing your favorite song.
Some grandchildren love to go down memory lane with their grandparents. Show them old photographs, and without sounding like “this was the best of times,” tell them how your life was like at their age. Tell them how the world has changed and what your life was like without computers or cell phones. Gasp!
Also, if you live far from your grandkids or if you have been limiting your visits because of the pandemic, make yourself available for video chats. Several family members can join in and make it a family fun virtual reunion. And if you don’t know how to set up your computer, tablet, or phone for video chats, who better to ask for help than one of your teenage grandchildren who was born into this technology.
Seeing multiple generations of their family is an important way for children to learn who they are and how to live. This transmission of identity and family connection can be one of the greatest and simplest gifts of all.
What have you learned about yourself from becoming a grandparent? What do you think of this advice? Please join the conversation.