By Amanda Idleman, Crosswalk.com
Grandparents are the best gift to their children and grandchildren! They offer invaluable advice, a special kind of love for their grandkids, and the gift of free childcare. What would we do without them?
We know grandparents have every good intention at heart, but... some things they do drive us parents crazy and create unnecessary stress. Here are some things that you might want to be aware of in your goal of lightening the parents' load.
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1. Scheduling a family activity during naptime
We know that grandparents just want to make great memories and make the most of the time they get with their grandkids. But, something that might be helpful to keep in mind is that preschoolers need their rest. Most kids from newborns to 5-year-olds truly need a few hours in the afternoon either to sleep or rest in their rooms.
When you mess with these precious hours of the day you are asking havoc to enter the lives of that preschooler's parents. Are you wondering when parents of preschoolers get out of the house? The answer is from 9 a.m. until after lunch and then everything is on hold until late afternoon. Parents of preschoolers would love to do brunch, a morning playdate, lunch, or an early dinner (because bedtime comes around fast).
But... please don’t ask them to get the whole family out of the house during the sacred and necessary afternoon rest hours. The rhythm of afternoon rest is essential for our kids and for the sanity of parents too!
We stick to our schedule to keep ourselves alive during the more demanding preschool years. Being aware and thoughtful of the routine of little ones is a great way to help out Mom and Dad. They want to say yes to family gatherings but when it comes in conflict with naps, they can be torn on what they should do.
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2. Loading up the kids on all the sugar
Grandparents, we know you love your sweet grandkids and relish the opportunity to bring smiles to their lovable faces, but we beg you to consider bringing smiles with your hugs and not your candy. I promise they will love spending time playing a game with you, taking a walk with you, or even cooking something delightful with you, just as much as they love you for allowing them to indulge in all the sugar each time they visit.
Sometimes grandparents may believe they have the liberty to do whatever feels like fun with their grandkids but the truth is a grandparent’s influence towards healthy habits is vital. It’s okay to intermittently “spoil” your grandkids with extra candy, cakes, or sugary treats, but you also want them to know that healthy eating is important to you too (not just Mom and Dad). Some of the meals you share together should include hearty and healthy foods so your grandkids get the message that treats are fun but only good in moderation!
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3. Overdoing screen time
Nearly everyone struggles with how much TV or media is too much! Finding the right balance is hard for parents, teachers, kids, and grandparents alike! The TV or computer are easy go-to’s when we need something to occupy the busy hands of children.
Planning an age appropriate movie night or taking your grandkids out on a “date” to the theatre to see a new release together can be a fun way to make memories together. However, choosing to allow your grandkids to spend the duration of their visits with you in front of a screen is really missing an opportunity to connect with them on a deeper level.
In my experience, when the TV is on everyone in the room is distracted by its noise. Conversations are harder to have and other activities are pushed to the side in favor of watching whatever is on the screen. Turn off the distraction and spend some time playing and talking with your grandkids.
If you give the kids an ear they will have endless words to share with you. It can feel scary to turn off the TV and then figure out what else you can do together but give it a few minutes and those grandkids will be full of ideas of what you can do.
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4. Forgetting that new parents are so very, very tired
Grandparents are so eager to meet and help when new family members are added to the family. This excitement is truly appreciated by parents but the simple truth is that having a new baby is exhausting!
Your body literally hurts, your brain no longer functions properly and your life feels like chaos. Babies are just draining for the first months. When grandkids arrive everyone is beyond excited to spend time with that new little one--but remember the parents of that new bundle are stuck in the thick of one of the most intense seasons of their lives.
A great way to make sure you are helping and not overwhelming the tired new parents is to be clear in your communication with them. Just ask what you can do to help. Inquire to know if they want company or if space is the best thing for the moment.
It’s important to not assume you know what is best for them in this season of their life. Respect their need to figure things out and be ready to help when they ask for your vitally important assistance. Maybe today getting together is too much but chances are next week that having you around will be just what they need.
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5. Failing to kid-proof their home
Over time it’s easy to forget how curious babies and toddler are! No matter how many times we redirect them, they return back to the same scene again to investigate. On top of that toddlers have no concept of being “gentle.” Gentle touch is something learned a bit later down the line.
With this in mind, you may not need to do a total makeover to your home to accommodate little ones, but putting in some effort to reduce the amount of easily accessible breakable decor, covering outlets, and blocking off steps goes a long way in making your space feel comfortable when your littlest grandkids come to visit. Chances are your children will be more reluctant to spend long periods of time at your house with their kids if it feels like a museum, where the kids can look but not touch. Temporarily taking the some of the hazards out of reach, so that your home can be enjoyed by all, will be so appreciated by Mom and Dad.
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6. Overbuying for holidays and birthdays
The generosity of loving grandparents is an amazing blessing to their children and grandchildren, but our kids only need so much before they are overwhelmed or spoiled by so many new things at every holiday and birthday. Why not start thinking outside the box on how you can bless and help provide for your grandchildren? Is there an activity you can help pay for rather than getting them another toy that will be added to the heap? What about facilitating a special trip or vacation for your grandchildren?
Taking the first step in helping save money for their futures would also be hugely valuable to their lives. If in doubt, you can always ask your children what the specific needs and wants are for their children and start there. Assist in taking care of the “must have” items like school clothing, supplies, or sports fees may be the best way you can “gift” and support your grandkids and children. Your restraint or emphasis on saving for the future rather than giving the grandkids everything they want now sets a solid example of good financial stewardship for your family.
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7. Overruling the instructions of the parents
Parenting is a hard job, and everyone approaches the task differently. It’s likely at some point that grandparents may not agree with how their children choose to parent, but as long as there is no abuse or neglect it is the parent’s final say on how they choose to direct their kids. When the parent is around, grandparents should take a backseat in disciplining the grandkids and respect the guidance of the parents.
If the parent says a particular behavior is unacceptable, that stance should be supported by the grandparents and never undermined. If grandparents are unsure if an activity, treat, show, and so on is permissible, then they should check in with the parents first before taking liberty with their grandchildren in exposing or letting them indulge in a way that is not consistent with the parents wishes.
Being on the same team is helpful to make sure boundaries are consistently being kept in the lives of grandchildren. If you do have a concern about the parenting decisions of your children, prayerfully approach them one-on-one to talk through your concerns. They need the perspective of others to help them grow as parents, but this conversation should be held privately as to not confuse grandkids about their parents ability to care for them.
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8. Comparing their grandkids to others
It’s so easy to see another person’s life and think they have it altogether. The truth is each and every person has unique strengths and weaknesses, and each person develops on their own timeline. It’s an easy lie of the enemy that says the “grass is greener on the other side.” We have to be careful to not see other children and compare them to our grandkids. Comments about other children being better behaved in a certain way can be very hurtful to the feelings of parents and grandchildren.
A better approach is to try to praise the strengths of your grandchildren and encourage them to persevere in areas that they need growth. Give grandchildren the room to be themselves and develop in their own unique way. The words of grandparents have incredible power to both lift the spirits of their children and grandchildren or to tear them down. Comparison almost always leads to discouragement and hurt.
The most important thing about being a grandparent is getting to be a cheerleader for your children and grandchildren. You get to speak life, promote health, pray, and just be present for the growing generation.
Remember, all good things are best in moderation and you are there to support while Mom and Dad take the lead. As long as your goal is to love your people well, then you're doing your job!
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