Grandparents Role in the Family

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This page is dedicated to grandparents and the positive role they can play in families.

* Why do families allow the past to be lost and forgotten and the future less certain?
* Dont' you think that by allowing grandparents to have an active role in raising children, the future for everyone could be more alive?
* Has your family tapped into the wealth of knowledge and experience of the grandparents?

I hope that grandparents, parents and children will read, study and remember the information listed on this page. Statistics show the family unit is degrading and that more children are having less contact with their grandparents. I hear some say, what do they know they dont't understand what I am going through. Although they grew up in a world much different, they do understand and can teach you how to respond to many difficult situations. They can help you plan for your future with the help of the parents. It should be a joint venture with parents and grandparents caring for and teaching children. Although there may be some differences in parents styles, parents and grandparents can come up with guidelines and boundries that each can live with.

Some of the information below is written by grandparents. Please take your time and investigate the information, websites and books listed on this page.

* Disclaimer: A-Better-Child.org offers this information as a guide only. We cannot be held responsible for the actions of others as a result of this information. This website and it's representatives are not to held responsible for the misuse of any information on this website.


The Role of a Grandparent

The experience of being a grandparent is unique for everyone. Grandparents often speak of the joy of being with their grandchildren. At the same time, grandchildren appreciate the fact their grandparents love them no matter what. For some grandparents, seeing grandchildren may be difficult due to divorce, remarriage, or geographic distance. Whether you are a grandparent, step-grandparent, or a grandparent raising a grandchild, you are an important person in your grandchild's life.

Grandparenting Styles
Although grandparents may express similar feelings about their experiences, the styles in which they grandparent can be different. Each person brings their unique self to the experience of grandparenting. Factors which may influence grandparenting styles include: culture, ethnicity, gender, race, family traditions, family structure, and personal history. Researchers who study grandparenting have identified various styles. These styles include family historian/living ancestor, the nurturer, the mentor, the role model, the playmate, the wizard, and the hero.

* Family Historian/Living Ancestor
As the family historian/living ancestor, grandparents share the stories of the past. These stories may be about relatives, important events, family traditions, the grandparent's own childhood or the grandchild's parent growing up. As the stories of the family are passed on, the grandchild gains a positive image of aging and their place within the family. Grandparents and their stories can be the "glue" which keeps the family together and contributes to family identity.

* Nurturer, Mentor, and Role Model
Grandparents who serve as nurturers provide encouragement and support to the family in times of crisis. Whether serving as the babysitter, the chauffeur, the confidante, or the caregiver, the challenge is to find a delicate balance between encouragement and control. Grandparents mentor by teaching, sharing skills and talents, providing advice and listening to their grandchildren. As a role model grandparents provide grandchildren with examples of hard work and family loyalty. You may not realize the influence you have on your grandchildren until you hear them repeat something you said or imitate something you have done. There are many areas in which grandparents serve as nurturers, mentors, and role models to their grandchildren.

* Playmate, Wizard, and Hero
The next three styles invoke the tender emotions of grandparents. Many grandparents thrill at the opportunity to be a crony or playmate with their grandchild. They speak with enthusiasm of time spent reading books, playing games, and sharing mutual interests with their grandchildren. Grandparents also play the magical role of wizard. At young ages, grandchildren are mesmerized by tricks and will stare wideeyed asking "how did you do that?" truly believing grandpa pulled a coin out of their ear. What a fun time to be a grandparent!

Finally, grandparents also fill the role of hero. Although you may think of the word "hero" in a different way, grandparents who always listen and who are consistently available to provide support are heroes. Grandparents may be the one a child turns to when they carry a burden too big to share with anyone else or they may serve as an emotional safety net to an older child when making an important decision.


The Joys of Grandparenting
Grandchildren bring love, energy, optimism, laughter, activity, youthfulness, and purpose to the lives of grandparents. At the same time, grandparents provide maturity, knowledge, stability, and unconditional love to the lives of their grandchildren. Think for a moment about your own grandparents. Which of these roles did they fulfill in your family? Whether your experiences with grandparents were positive or negative, even if you never had the opportunity to know your grandparents, you can make a difference in the lives of your grandchildren. Take the time to develop a grandparenting style that best fits you. Then build a relationship with your grandchildren that you both can enjoy!


Author: Patricia H. Holmes, Ohio State University Extension, Preble County.


The Grandparent Connection
by Betsy Mann

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 circumstances.

Degree of interest

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.
Availability

Many of today's grandparents don't fit the stereotype of grey-haired stay-at-homes with nothing to do but babysit 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 resentments.

Distance

If 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?

A fresh start

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 them.

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.

An enriching bond

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.

Older 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.


Creating a Family Childcare Agreement

Many grandparents who provide daily childcare for grandchildren say they get a lot more from the arrangement than they give. They’re able to enjoy a strong relationship with their grandchildren and to become an important part of their lives. They're able to help their adult children-and to feel appreciated for the important role they play in the family. Some grandparents even find that caring for grandkids for a portion of each day makes them feel younger than they've felt in years.

Sound like a job made in heaven? It often starts out that way. But even the most ideal childcare arrangement can go sour if grandparents and parents aren't careful. Without honest, open, and constant communication, the most enthusiastic grandparent caregiver could come to regret saying "yes" to childcare. The most grateful parents could begin to make unreasonable demands. And the cutest grandchild could become too much for a grandparent to handle.

There's one good way to avoid a childcare meltdown. Hold a family meeting before childcare begins. Bring up all the issues-big and small-that concern you. Make sure your adult children do the same. Be open and honest. Compromise. Negotiate. Come to an agreement about how your childcare arrangement will work. Put that agreement in writing. Then revisit that agreement from time to time. Revise it whenever necessary.

What issues should you discuss at your family meeting? That will depend on you. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Questions You Should Ask Your Adult Children

1. When and where? No detail is too small for the childcare agreement. When would you begin babysitting each day? When would parents return from work? What happens when parents are late? Can you take days off? Would there be a backup babysitter? Would you provide care at your own home or the child's home? Feel free to negotiate these and other terms. Don't be shy about stating your preferences.
2. Can we try it out for a while? Not sure if you'll have energy for an infant? Afraid you might miss your friends and social activities? Try out the childcare arrangement for a month or two and see how you like it. Don't commit yourself to childcare until the end of that period.
3. How about part-time? Don't want to tie yourself down every day of the week? Maybe you could watch your grandchildren three days a week. This would give them the benefit of a relative's care. But it would also let you have some time for yourself. On the other two days, care could be provided by a paid childcare professional, or a parent who has a flexible work schedule.
4. What's the job description? Make a list of the extra tasks you're willing to do in addition to providing childcare-and the ones you'd rather not tackle. You may not want to do laundry, feed pets or cook meals. Voice your preferences early so there's no misunderstanding.
5. Can we still be family? Your relationship with your adult children may change when you start caring for their children. Are you concerned about this? Bring it up. Remind your adult children that you still want to spend time together as a family.
6. What's my salary? About 20 percent of grandparent childcare providers get paid for their services. If you need the money, don't be afraid to ask for it.

Questions Your Adult Children Will Want to Ask You

1. Will you do it our way? Your job as a childcare provider is to do things the way your adult children want them done. You'll need to follow their direction regarding such things as how the children will be disciplined, what food the children will eat, how toilet training will be handled, and when the baby will nap. You'll also have to be open to some constructive criticism when your adult children don't agree with your child-rearing methods. Can you live with this? If not, childcare may not be for you.
2. Will our children be safe? Are you providing childcare in your own home? Your adult children will want you to childproof the rooms where your grandchildren will spend their time. Parents will insist that you use an approved child safety seat in your car. They may not want you to run errands when the children are with you. They may ask you not to smoke around the children. Consider each request. Try to be flexible. And if you can't meet their expectations, say so up front.
3. Can you learn new tricks? Your adult children may be concerned that your parenting skills are not quite up to date. You can't really blame them. They've read all the latest child-rearing books, and you haven't taken care of kids in 20 years. Don't be offended if they ask you to take a parenting class or to read a new parenting book. These resources can help you feel more confident when you're on the job, and can help you understand your children's requests regarding safety, diet, and other child-rearing issues.

Don't Stop Talking

As you can see, it's important to have a family meeting before your childcare arrangement starts. The agreement you develop at this meeting will help you and your adult children work together to nurture your grandchildren. But one meeting isn't enough. Make plans to sit down at least once a month to talk over issues that come up. During the month, take note of things that are going well, and things that should be improved. Evaluate how you're feeling about being a grandparent childcare provider. Ask your adult children to do the same.

Most important, always be on the lookout for ways to make things better. You owe it to yourself, to your adult children, and-most important-to your grandchildren.


Grandparents and Child Development

None of us needs advice to applaud our grandchild's first step or praise his first word. Milestones like these are always happy occasions.

Some developmental milestones, however, are more difficult to deal with. For example, on a recent visit to our 18-month-old grandson, we tried to give our grandson a kiss when we arrived. He took one look at us, turned away, and cried. Then there was a visit from our preteen granddaughter. She arrived attached to headphones. She wasn't interested in anything except talking on the phone with her friends.

We were disappointed but not surprised. Both of our grandchildren were "going through a stage." Knowing that, we were able to put aside our disappointment, adjust our expectations, and enjoy our time together.

It Happens So Fast

Grandchildren change so quickly it's hard to keep up with them. We should be willing to try, though. For fast information on what to expect from grandchildren of any age, there is nothing better than the Internet. Numerous Web sites offer guidelines to all stages of child development, from birth through adolescence. A quick search can tell us what we need to know at any point in the growing-up process.

The Basics of Child Development

Grandchildren are complex little human beings. They are constantly changing in more ways than can be listed here. Below is a very general look at the social and emotional developments we can expect in grandchildren.

1. Infancy (birth to 2 years)
These are the years when we must childproof our homes because grandchildren this age explore with their mouths. This age group lacks self-control, cannot remember rules, and does not understand consequences. They are afraid of unfamiliar faces. Approach slowly and carefully. Their long journey toward independence is beginning. Let them feed themselves (despite the mess), play games with them, and read to them. Be prepared for temper tantrums and lots of "No." Hold, hug, rock, and cuddle with abandon.
2. Early childhood (3 to 8 years)
Between ages three and five, grandchildren begin to accept suggestions and follow simple directions. They like to try new things, take risks, and make their own decisions. They share and take turns. They can also be very bossy. Awareness of others and their feelings begins to develop. Grandchildren ages six to eight are increasingly interested in making friends. They find criticism and failure hard to handle. They can work with others and take part in discussions with different points of view. They all like jokes and riddles.
3. Later childhood (9 to 12 years)
Preteens want to spend time more time with their friends than with their family. They may challenge adult authority. Grandchildren this age compare their families to those of their friends-often unfavorably. They need love and support more than ever.
4. Adolescence (13 to 18 years)
We may not see much of our grandchildren during this time. They are forming lasting friendships with both sexes. Teenagers are more tolerant and even-tempered than preteens, but they experience real pain when relationships end. They take social and physical risks and like to discuss serious issues, especially those that affect teenagers.

If we understand normal child development, we can put temper tantrums into perspective. We can recognize that separation anxiety and stranger anxiety have nothing to do with us personally. Patience pays off. One of these days our granddaughter will take off her headphones and talk to us again. We just have to wait until the time is right.

Extra Eyes and Ears

Parents are so close to their children that they sometimes miss early developmental problems. Take, for example, friends of mine, whose child was born with a serious hearing loss. These two well-educated people never realized anything was wrong. The fact that their daughter didn't come when she was called or wouldn't talk on the telephone raised no red flags. Only when she began preschool did her teacher identify the real problem.

We can do the same for our grandchildren as the preschool teacher. If we think something isn't right, we need to raise the question with our children. As The Coordinated Campaign for Learning Disabilities reminds us, "The only 'wrong' thing to do is to do nothing." Most developmental problems can be successfully treated if they are identified early.

This, Too, Shall Pass

It's important to know what normal behavior is for grandchildren at different ages. That way we're less likely to be hurt or disappointed when their behavior isn't exactly what we expected. There are too many good things about watching grandchildren grow up to let some passing phase upset us. Grandchildren need all the love we can give them all the time. Take a deep breath. We know from experience the stormy patches don't last forever. They're only around long enough to help us appreciate good weather when it arrives.


Listed below are a few websites on the role of grandparents in the family.

Grandparents play a vital role in child development
Grandparents often become a family’s first reserves in times of crisis. Grandparents act as fun playmates for children, role models, and family historians, ...
http://www.fathersforlife.org/families/grndprnt.htm

Grandparents
Talk To Your Baby has looked into the increasingly important role that grandparents play in British families, and the impact they have on family ...
http://www.literacytrust.org.uk/talktoyourbaby/grandparents.html

Grandparents play big role in families (10-20-2005)
When families come together for socializing or in daily life, grandparents can use those times to do what they do best.
http://www.msucares.com/news/print/fcenews/fce05/051020.html

A Grandparents' Guide for Family Nurturing & Safety
Grandparents make profound contributions to their families, so take your role seriously. Babysit on a regular or as-needed basis, if you can. ...
http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/grand/704.html

The Influence of Grandparents and Stepgrandparents on Grandchildren
Being a stepgrandparent can be more challenging than being a grandparent because the role is less clear. As more stepfamilies are formed, more attention ...
http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/famsci/fs548w.htm


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