Here are 10 ways you can create a healthy, fun, and loving relationship with your grandchildren and their parents. This is how to be an AWESOME grandparent and foster an unforgettable bond.
When families grow and grandchildren are born; it’s easy to get excited about this new relationship. But it can be a complicated one because you are also dealing with your own child and their spouse and other grandparents.
Putting in the thought and effort into being an awesome grandparent is so worth it! Not only do you build this unique relationship with your grandchildren but you strengthen the relationship with their parents.
#1 Respect the Parents
This is my #1 rule on how to be an awesome grandparent. If you get nothing else out of this article—please take away this advice. The parent-child relationship is sacred and to be a trusted person in your grandchildren’s life, you have to honor Mom and Dad’s parenting decisions.
Everything I do as a grandparent must be in line with what my daughter and her husband want. When the parents, know that you’ll abide by their house rules, it allows them to relax and enjoy your relationship with their kids—your grandchildren.
Being consistent helps build and maintain the relationship. Regular visits, FaceTime/Skype, and phone calls keep you connected with your grandchildren. I am so fortunate to live only ½ hour away from my granddaughters and I visit about twice a week. The timing and number of visits depends on your situation, the family situation, and your relationship with the parents.
Children love routines and things they can count on. I try to keep a regular afternoon for visits. If you live further away, you could have regular FaceTime or Skype visits. To make it even more special the parents can set a special ringtone for your call, so the grandkids know it’s you. My daughter did this for her husband and the girls come running when they hear his special ringtone.
Create “Special” Activities
These do not have to be anything big or expensive. In fact you can turn ordinary days or evenings into special activities by giving them “special” names. One of our favorites is “Girl’s Night.” I go over once a week when my son-in-law works late and play with the girls, visit with my daughter, and share dinner with them. We call it “Girls’ Night” and that makes it sound fun and exciting even though we are following their exact evening routine. Sometimes it’s “Special Time with Grammy.” Or “Crazy Dance Party.” It doesn’t matter what you plan or do, but giving it a special name makes it memorable to your grandchild.
Create “Your Thing”
Creating “your thing” with a grandchild often happens spontaneously the first time. After that, repeating it cements it into your grandchild’s life as something only you can provide. These often change as the child gets older.
Right now my 2-year old granddaughter loves to stand on a chair in the kitchen and “cook.” I try to put together safe fun activities that allow her to measure, stir, and pour. She used to love to be in my arms to dance when a certain song comes on. Now she has her favorite playlist of songs she loves to dance to.
My seven-year old granddaughter loves to play her games on my iPad (that we pick out together), cuddle up near me to read a book, or have me go outside with her while she swings. Her “things” are often quiet and cuddly. Going to the library or bookstore and getting a couple of new books and finding a cool place to read is one of our favorite things.
Depending on your personality you can definitely jazz it up. I have a friend that is teaching her four-year old granddaughter to bake. Another plays in the pool with her granddaughters or does messy art with them.
Get Silly With Them
I don’t know about you but I don’t often get the opportunity to straight up get silly. Being with young grandchildren is the perfect opportunity. My girls love silly dancing and singing to music, play acting, telling jokes, using funny voices, and anything else you can think of that makes us all laugh. At my sister’s home, they often play charades at family get-togethers. Kids love funny faces, voices, and exaggeration.
Help Mom and Dad
Again, this will be unique to your situation and relationship. I help out with the kids when my daughter has a deadline or needs to get caught up. I like to babysit so she can have an evening out with her husband once in a while. I remember with profound gratitude all the times my mom and mother-in-law watched my kids. I was only able to finish my graduate degree because of the help they provided.
Along with babysitting, my son-in-law’s mom, the other grandmother loves to keep the baby in diapers and both of the girls in cute clothes. She combines her “thing” shopping with keeping the girls dressed.
Value the Other Grandparents
Babies and children have enough love for everyone. It’s so tempting to want to be the “favorite” and shower your grandchild with gifts, clothes, and attention. As a grandparent, of course you are going to do some special things with and for your grandchild, but do it out of a sense of purpose.
In our family the other grandmother loves to buy clothes and toys for the girls. I’m happy my grandchildren have such a generous and loving grandma. I buy books and games from the iTunes store—once in a while. I’m just not good at buying things. But I love to sit and play with them and give them my time. It’s obvious that our grandchildren love all their grandparents. The kids don’t compare!
Share Family Traditions
My older granddaughter will sometimes ask me what Mom (my daughter) did when she was little. She loves to hear about how it was when her mom was young. We love passing on our traditions to her. Our family is from West Virginia and even though she’s never been there, she knows how to sing Country Roads, knows how to do some Mountaineer cheers, and looks forward to the day when she’ll finally see West Virginia.
Here in Texas, we celebrate the holidays and make recipes that have been passed down for generations. I love having my family over for a meal and sitting down around the table that I sat around as a child. I love serving favorite family foods that my mom served. We talk about the family that lives in faraway states.
Set Your Own Boundaries
Creating a relationship with your grandchildren may require setting your own boundaries. How much will you help out with babysitting? Will it be on a regular basis? How much will you spend on your grandchildren? How often will you travel and for what events? Each of these questions requires thought and at times a conversation with the parents about their expectations.
Take Care of Yourself!
Finally, remember to take care of yourself. Now you have some special people in your life, it pays off big time to be fit, healthy, and energetic. I love being able to lift my granddaughters, go for long walks, and dance like a crazy woman on occasion. Eat right and exercise! And for goodness sake, if you have an addiction like smoking, please do whatever it takes to quit.
As much as your grandchildren are important to you, you are important to them! Keep yourself fit and healthy.
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I'm a former counselor, career services leader, and college advisor. Now I coach and write at My Think Big Life promoting health and personal growth.
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