Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
The moment you become a parent, you
automatically give your own parents a new position: you make them grandparents.
Strong connections among the generations surround your child with the security
of belonging to an extended family. How your
family defines the grandparent role will depend on your particular
Grandparents vary in how
involved they want to become. Some older people can hardly wait to have
grandchildren. They genuinely look forward to spending time with little ones
again. You may welcome their willingness to
babysit or even provide child care while you study or work. On the other hand,
if you find they are a little too eager to participate, you may have to make
your limits clear.
Other elders feel
that the child-rearing period of their life is over and now it's your turn. Some
grandparents keep their distance because they don't want to interfere with how
you bring up your children. Make the most of
whatever interest your parents show, recognizing that the situation may change
over time. Some people are not drawn to babies but are quite happy to take an
older child to a hockey game.
of today's grandparents don't fit the stereotype of grey-haired stay-at-homes
with nothing to do but baby-sit their grandchildren. They may still be in the
workforce or they may be active retirees with busy lives of
their own. Health concerns could also restrict the time and energy that older
people want to spend with young children. When you respect your parents' limits,
the grandparent–grandchild connection can grow without
you live far from your parents, it can be a real challenge to build ties between
them and your children. Here are a few suggestions for keeping a long-distance
relationship healthy. Use the mail to exchange photos, drawings and short notes.
Write often, even if it's only a few sentences on a postcard. Telephone from
time to time, but remember very young children don't say much on the phone. They
may not even want to interrupt their play to "say a few words to Grandma." Keep
your parents informed about your child's interests (school, sports, books,
favourite TV programs, etc.) so that they
have something to write or talk about.
Send audiotapes of your children talking and singing.
Get a grandparent to tape him or herself reading a story from a library book you
suggest. When you play the tape, borrow the same book and turn the pages as you
listen with your child. Ask your parents to tape stories about when you were
little, or memories of their own childhood. Can
they remember any songs they sang to you as a baby?
The quality of your children's
relationship with your parents will depend greatly on your own relationship with
them. Having a child can bring you closer; you now share the experience of being
a parent. On the other hand, if you have very
different views about how to bring up children, this could give rise to serious
frictions between you and your parents. Open communication is the key to working
out these differences. You all probably have the best interests of the children
at heart, even if you don't see eye to eye on the best way to achieve
If you continue to disagree, keep
your children out of the conflict. Let them make their own relationship with
your parents, unburdened by your complaints.
When the relationship is positive,
children benefit from widening the circle of caring adults who will continue to
be present in their lives. Contact with grandparents exposes them to different
environments and to points of view based on a
long experience of life. If one parent is absent, a grandparent can also provide
a missing gender role model.
people also gain from getting to know their grandchildren. They build links
forward to the future and continue contributing to their family. As a parent in
the middle, you too will gain from supporting and
encouraging these enriching intergenerational connections.