Recently I have received several phone calls from friends joyously announcing they have joined the ‘Grand parenting club’ and it made me think more about the significance of this important relationship that can enrich lives across the generations.

There are 14 million grandparents in the UK, 1.5 million are aged under 50, 7 million are under 65.

Ask a grandparent about a grandchild and you’re usually in for a long conversation!!
Serious faces soften with enormous grins, house rules slacken and the biscuit tin is never empty.

Adults appear to transform when they become grandparents. It’s as if they turn back the clock, -a time to have a child in the family without the responsibility but with all the pleasure that they may have missed with their own children. Grandparents take on the role of a bridge between the past and the present, providing memorable loving relationships with grandchildren that can last a lifetime.

However, with the increase in blended families, grandparents are taking on many different roles and it can be challenging. Some grandparents take on full or part time responsibility for their grandchildren often having to shoulder a great deal of the childcare responsibilities because both parents are working or in some cases due to divorce or even death of a parent. For other grandparents it may be a weekend visit, a regular weekday spent together, a chat on the phone and if in a long distance relationship an email or a regular Skype exchange.

At Coupleworks we often see clients who are struggling with the demands of grandparenting, which in turn can lead to difficulties in their own relationships.

Here are some suggestions to ensure a grandparenting role makes the most of this precious relationship and helps strengthen loving family times:

*discuss with your son or daughter the role you would like to have in your grandchild’s life and how that matches with their expectation of your new role. For example how often you will babysit? How often will you seem them? Will you go on holidays together? How often can they come and stay? Do you attend school meetings?

* try not to offer advise unless it’s asked for!! Instead make sure your children know you are on hand should they need someone to turn to.

*house rules at home are always more relaxed in grandparents homes, but consistency is important for grandchildren to feel.

*resist trying to tell your children how to raise your grandchildren. Respect the parent’s decisions. Make it clear you respect their boundaries. You would always phone before popping in!

*share with them the things you are interested in and passionate about which may be different from their parents

*it’s unnecessary to shower your new grandchild with an abundance of gifts – always check with the child’s parents before making a large purchase. Perhaps, substitute gift giving by spending quality time and sharing activities together which will build up much more lasting memories.

*remember to look after your own relationship by ensuring you take time out for your partner to have fun and enjoy reconnecting as a couple without grandchildren

* keep yourself healthy by eating nutritiously and ensure you get enough sleep – grandchildren can be exhausting!!

*just living for your grandchildren can cause difficulties so don’t give up your own hobbies and interests. It’s important to have a balanced life.

Relationships with your grandchildren, like any other relationships can be challenging but also incredibly rewarding. Grandparents are often rejuvenated in the companionship of a younger generation. Equally, grandparenting offers a grandchild insight into a different generational experience.

Being the kind of grandparent that works for you, your children and your grandchildren involves caring, compromise and consistency.

A Welsh proverb claims: ‘perfect love sometimes does not come until the first grandchild’

Have the time of your life!!
Dawn Kaffel